First Impression: Neutopia (Wii U – TurboGraphix16) ~ Is this Zelda?

Wikipedia entry

There are a lot of different Zelda clones out there. And to be honest, I don’t mind it at all. It keeps Nintendo on its toes in making the next Zelda game. If it’s not good enough, then the clones have a chance to be the next big hit. Recently, I took a look at some of them. Blossom King and Lenna’s Inception are two good examples. So, during my week off this week, I was browsing the Nintendo Wii U eShop and I discovered Neutopia. At first, I thought it was an indie developer creating another 2D Zelda clone, but I was quite surprised when I saw that the developer was Hudson Soft. So, I dug a bit deeper, and it turns out that this game was never released in Europe until the Wii and Wii U era. So, why didn’t we get this game, and its sequel over here in Europe? Was the Zelda clone not good enough, or did we miss out? Let’s find out, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game.

Is this Zelda?

I find the story in this game quite amusing. It’s, to a certain degree, a cross between your cliché Zelda and Final Fantasy story. Change the Triforce with crystals. Sprinkle some Zelda II with a sleeping princess in a shrine, that instead of getting cursed… gets kidnapped Link to the Past style. Oh, and let’s not forget that the crystals are elemental crystals. The story is silly but oh so amusing to me. The story isn’t the main focal point in this game. Besides the main character, the villain, and the princess… There aren’t many unique characters in the game. Which isn’t a bad thing. The name of the villain is hilarious, actually. He is called Dirth, yes… dirt with an additional H.

In terms of gameplay, this game is everything I could hope for. This game is Zelda I at its heart, and I love it. It didn’t take long for me to get immersed in the game and start exploring the world. All the mechanics were clear to me right away. I had to explore the lands, find the dungeons and find all the medallions. I started out with a sword and started exploring. The controls are extremely easy to learn as well, so in no time I was in the action.

Something that took me by surprise is that there are only 4 dungeons. But, there are two medallions in each dungeon. So, you’ll have to explore them quite thoroughly to make sure you found everything. Speaking of exploring, I was afraid that I would have to look for ages for the various dungeons since the game also copied the “map” system from Zelda I. Thankfully, you have a Charmed Compass that points you into the general direction of the dungeons.

There are no keys in this game, so no locked door puzzles. Yet, the map system has a unique feature. It plays a special sound effect whenever you are near a boss or a medallion. This brings me nicely to the audiovisual presentation of this game. The music in this game, oh heavens. The music in this game is excellent! This chiptune soundtrack fits the game so well and is one of the best things in this game. It made the exploration and trying to beat the various challenges the game gives you even more fun. The sound effects are decent too, if only I wished there were a bit more of them to make the enemies and weapons come more alive.

Is this game hard? Well, if you know how to play Zelda I, it’s not hard at all. You have to know that you can burn bushes, push rocks, and that villagers are hidden all over the world that gives you VERY helpful advice. For real, read what the villagers have to say. The only nitpick I have is that when you accidentally press the skip button, you’ll have to exit and re-enter their location to know what they said.

This game is also somewhat forgiving. When you die, you go to the latest checkpoint you saved at. So, whenever you did something big or before a dungeon, remember to save. This isn’t your modern game with autosaves. The save system is unique, when save you get a very long password and the chance to save in a slot. But do yourself a favor, and only use that save feature to create checkpoints so when you die, you don’t lose too much progress and use the actual save states of the virtual console to save. I found that much more reliable than the load system. Especially since the save slots are RAM-based! Any RAM memory can be overwritten. The only thing you lose is a bit of gold.

The items that enemies can drop are the exact same as in the first Zelda game. Apart from having different sprites. From gold, bomb to even a time-stopping power up. And if you listen well to the villagers, you’ll know what each item does, since they hint at them pretty well.

Visually, this game looks amazing. The only thing I found a shame is that there were no real towns or anything in the game. But that’s a minor nitpick since, evener then, the map is quite memorable and great fun to explore. Of course, you have your typical locals from a forest, mountains, and desert, but they all fit the world so well. Strangely enough, there is no ice/cold area in this game. That’s something you don’t see every game every day. But, we don’t see perfect games every day either. Yet, is this game one of those?

This isn’t as good as Zelda.

Sadly enough, no. This game has some flaws. The first is the bombs. The big issue is that you need way too many of them to beat the game, and you can only carry 8 of them at the start. There is also no easy way to farm them, so when you require more… It’s enemy killing time, and cross your fingers they drop bombs. And bombs are one of the few items that stack. When the wings drop, to easily escape to the last save point, you can only have one. Even when you picked up two. … Okay, you can carry two health points.

There is something I feel a bit mixed about, and that is some villagers. Some villagers give you special rewards like money. But only once. That alone is just fine. But, here is the annoying thing. If you die and go back to that spot, you can’t get the money again. Yet, when I think about this… It makes a bit sense too. Since, if the reward of the villager is higher than what you lose when you die… It would be money exploit waiting to happen. If only you could decline the money before you get it, that would have been amazing.

Now, that it was difficult to create a good map system on an 8-bit system for Zelda I, I can totally understand. You only have so much RAM and resources to play with before the system starts to lag. But, on a system that’s at least twice as powerful, the map system can do more. The map system is a huge mess in my eyes.

First, there is no overworld map, so you don’t know where you are in the overworld. Something that the first Zelda game actually did! Second, after getting the dungeon map, it resets the visited rooms when you leave the dungeon by any means. And third, it only shows you the rooms for the first medallion. Which in itself isn’t a big issue, but it’s a big issue since when you die exploring the second part of the dungeon, guess what… The map is reset and the new rooms are gone! Oh, and I hope you remembered where to bomb to continue.

Sadly, this game has the same annoyance as the first Zelda game when it comes to hitboxes. During my playthrough, I felt that sometimes it was easier for the enemies to hit me compared to hitting them. The fact you can’t hit enemies diagonally is a huge issue. Since, when you aren’t lined up right… You don’t hit the enemy, but they hit you. Well, you can hit enemies diagonally but not with the sword. Just increasing the hitboxes of the enemies by a tiny bit would have solved this issue.

Something minor about this is that some airborne enemies were tricky to know when you were able to hit and not hit them. Speaking of iffy enemy design, I found some enemies a bit too cheap. Those mud crawlers are so annoying in predicting where they will turn up.

Now, I think I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I honestly think it’s time to wrap this up in a nice conclusion.

Is this worth your time?

For this conclusion, I won’t beat around the bush. If you enjoy any 2D adventure game like let’s say: Zelda I, Blossom Tales, Lenna’s Inception, Fairune… This game is right up your alley. This amazing retro title is an excellent time waster. It does have some flaws, but when you get used to the flaws, this game is stunning. Currently, I’m halfway done with the game, but I couldn’t wait in finishing the game before I started writing this review.

This game brought me back to the joy of 2D Zelda games. Which is one of my favorite types of games. Just keep in mind that this game is a retro game and the things I talked about in my review, and you are golden. I’m playing this game blind and not using a walkthrough at all. It’s a blast, and can’t wait to see what the game is going to throw at me next. And let’s not forget the sequel! Which improvements were made and is it going to be as much fun as this one?

Now, if you decide to play this game… I personally would advise you to play this game on the Virtual Console or PSN. If you want to play it on the TurboGraphix 16, be careful with saving in the cabinets/save files. Do write down your passwords. Since saving to RAM… I don’t trust it personally. And sadly enough, the passwords are long and complex. It’s case-sensitive even.

I highly enjoyed my time with this game, and I can’t recommend it enough to fellow 2D adventure game fans and retro game fans. But, I can totally understand that because of its age and quirks, this game might not be so enjoyable for everybody. But, give it a chance, I really think it is worth it.

And with that said, I want to thank you all 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 to another one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Those annoying mud things :/

First Impression: Abyss of the Sacrifice (Switch) ~ Puzzlerooms To Sacrifice

Age warning: This game is 16+.

Wikipedia entryNintendo.com microsite

I might be a day late for Halloween, but today on the day after, I still want to talk about a somewhat horror related game. As regular readers of my blog know, I’m an avid fan of the Zero Escape trilogy. So, when I saw this game pop up on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I had to give it a try. I enjoyed my time with it that much, that it even slipped in my top 10 games of 2020. Why did I give this game a spot there? Well, let me explain why, while I invite you 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.

Puzzlerooms to sacrifice

This game follows the story of 5 girls who are left in the “Foundation”. This is a strange place underground that has been built for some reason that everybody has forgotten. It doesn’t take long before our 5 heroines meet each other and strange things like earthquakes start happening. And let’s not forget, since everybody is gone from the Foundation, food and water supplies are getting more difficult to come by every day.

I don’t want to talk much about the story, since it hinges on its mystery quite a lot. It’s that sort of story where you are left in the dark about everything right from the start, but the further you go in the story the more gets explained. I do highly recommend playing this game without a break like I did. I had to restart my playthrough since I completely forgot what was going on, and I got confused.

Something that took me by surprise is the fact that this game is fully voice acted, in Japanese. Now, this makes my job of reviewing this game a bit more difficult. I barely know any Japanese, so take what I’m going to say next with a grain of salt. But, I feel that the voice acting is pretty good. I really felt the emotional performance of the voice actors and I feel they did an amazing job.

Something I really did like is how there are some cliché characters, like your doctors’ girl and the patient that went in and out of hospitals but the interaction and the backstory of these characters is handled in such a unique way, it feels quite fresh and unique. The story itself is getting quite interesting at the moment where I’m at, and I’m so glad I choose the Switch version over the Steam version since now I can take it with me on the train from and to work.

Visually, the game looks amazing. The artwork really immersed me into the world and the story. Together with the great music and sound design, I really felt like I was exploring a mystery in the Foundation. Sometimes, an important item blended into the scenery, but it gave off a small sparkle, so you didn’t have to go pixel hunting.

I really like the hint system in this game. At any time, without a penalty, you can in the menu to the “Hint” system, and you can look at the hints. Only the hints that help you to get further in the puzzle are unlocked. The ones you need later in the puzzle aren’t accessible and not even shown. The minor negative you could say that this system brings is that it somewhat spoils the length of the room, but that’s a minor thing in my opinion.

You can play this game out of order. So, each time you finish a chapter, you unlock the next entries of the story of each girl. You can play them in any order you like. To avoid getting even more confused about what’s going on, I played them somewhat in order. But, it’s a great thing that if you get stuck on one puzzle, you can stop it and go to another girl to try on that puzzle later. And believe you me, the puzzles can get quite challenging. I even had to get out a pen and paper for several puzzles to solve it.

The controls and the UI of this game is something to be praised. The only minor negative thing is that there is no real autosave, but you can save easily at any time in an overload of save slots. The amount of options is a good to have, so that way you can adjust your experience to your liking. And the easy to learn controls are shown in the options menu in case that you forgot one or two buttons.

Escape is not needed

Sadly enough, this game does have some flaws. In terms of variation, this game doesn’t have a lot of it. This game is a visual novel with some escape the room elements thrown in. But, there are some things that the visual novel sections don’t do all to well. First, the contrast of the text with the background isn’t always the best. I sometimes had trouble reading the text. Thankfully, my English is pretty decent, and I can make out the words, but I can image that it’s going to be quite annoying for people who aren’t so good at English.

Something else that really bothered me is the fact that it’s sometimes a bit unclear who is talking to who in the dialogue sections. There is no real “speaking” animation. That’s a shame, since I’m that kind of person who has a hard time remembering names. I was so glad that in World’s End Club, you had that overview screen with the names and abilities. Even in the backlog it’s unclear who is talking.

Speaking of which, when I looked into the backlog of this game… I found some strange things in the writing. This game sometimes jumps from 1st person to 3rd person writing. A great example where you can get easily confused is this one:

Suddenly, she felt a sharp tug on her arm.

"Huh?"

I didn't fall....?

As she blinked in disbelief, a voice called out above her.

That’s exactly how it appears in the game. If only a different styling was used for thoughts OR keep writing in either 1st or 3rd person, this could have improved the writing.

There were some moments of frustration as well during the puzzle segments. For example, in one room, I had to pick up a robot from the cleaning station but the area I could click to pick it up was almost completely overlapped by the “Exit screen” UI. So, be really precise with your clicks or otherwise, you’ll be stuck while you have the correct solution. Thankfully, if you find the joystick movement controls a bit too fast like me, you can use the D-pad to solve that issue.

Sadly enough, some puzzles are a bit too tricky for my liking. Even with the hint system. One time I got stuck because I tried to combine item A with B, and it didn’t work… The solution was combining item B with A. Which brings me to talk about the interface you use to combine items. This interface is a mess in my opinion. It could have been designed a lot better, since if it wasn’t explained in the tutorial section… I would have forgotten how to use it and that it was even a mechanic.

You might have noticed that I didn’t talk about the animations in the visuals’ section of this review. That’s because, there was so much more that could have been done with the animations. I really felt that the game was a bit too static and comic-book like. There could have been so much more life into the game with a bit more animations. And in some cases, I had the impression that the animations lagged while the game was anything but lagging. But, I think it’s high time to get into the conclusion of this article before I start lagging myself and go rambling.

Conclusion

This game is the perfect example of getting pretty close to greatness but missing the mark. This game has so much going for it. The amazing artstyle, the music, the concept, the atmosphere… I don’t regret my decision to include this game in my top 10 games of 2020.

Yet, this game lacks some polish which is a real shame. Since, I can truly see some people skipping this game because of it. It even makes it a bit difficult for me to recommend this game.

When I saw the scores that other reviewers were giving for this game, I was a bit annoyed. I felt that this game was getting too low scores for what’s offered here. This game tells a great story of 5 girls trying to survive and trying to figure out what happened to the world. But some technical issues hold it back. Some can be solved with a patch like the issues with the script and such, but others like the animations… That is going to need either a big patch or a remake.

But, if you enjoy games like the Zero Escape games or Corpse Party, I would say… Check out this game. Give it a chance. But, know that this game has some flaws and you best play it without too long of a break to fully enjoy this game. I personally think that this game is totally worth your time, maybe on sale. And as soon as you get use to the quirks, the negatives aren’t too bad. So, this review is luke warm, but warm enough to recommend it with caution.

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

First Impression: Persona 5 Strikers (Switch) ~ Let’s Steal Hearts

Persona5StrikersWikipedia’s entry – Nintendo.com microsite

I have heard so much about the Persona series, I got so hyped when a new game was coming to the Nintendo Switch. While I know that it’s a spin-off game compared to the mainline series, I honestly found the spin on the gameplay rather interesting. This game is a cross between a Warrior’s game and a Persona game. Now, I have played a little of Persona 3 Golden last year and that made my hype levels for this game even bigger. So, now that I have beaten the first section of the game, I think it’s high time for me to talk about this game and give you my opinions on the game. While I do that, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Let’s steal hearts

p5strikers3

In this game, you pick up the role of the protagonist of Persona 5 again. The events of this game take place 4 months after the events in Persona 5. The Phantom Thieves are having a reunion together when a campaigning trip is planning. Of course, since this is a video game, it doesn’t take long before the plot reveals itself and trouble arrives. 

Strange things happen around a famous fashion model and pop star Alice and then our lovely Phantom Thieves discover something that is quite close to the “Palaces” they know so well. Yet, this time it’s called a jail. In this jail, the desires are stolen from the people which make them fall a “little more than” head over heels with Alice. But, that’s not the only thing that happens. Our lovely Phantom Thieves also discover this strange girl called Sophia who is an AI who forgot all her memories and wants to be human’s best companion. 

That’s the hook of the first episode of this game. In terms of story, this game doesn’t disappoint at all. Especially, because I haven’t played Persona 5, the writing and pacing of the story explains who is who so easily, it’s a breeze to pick this game up without having to play through Persona 5 first.

I also have to say that the outstanding voice acting does help here too. It really sucks me into the game, the atmosphere and breathes so much life in the characters. To the point that when I come to a part that isn’t voice acted, I actually read it with a poor imitation of the character’s voice in my head. A quick sidenote about the voice acting during gameplay, the various repeating lines add so much to the game. I thought I might get tired of them after a few repeats, but that is far from the case, just like it was for me in a game like Fire Emblem Warriors

I can’t pinpoint exactly why but the story really clicks with me. Like, I really like how you explore the trauma of one character, and before they move on, it gets fully resolved. The writing is excellent, the story has a lot of charm and character. It has it’s funny and more serious moments and I totally understand why so many people fell in love with the Persona franchise. After playing this game and Persona 3 Golden, I think I might become a fan of the franchise myself as well. One of the things that makes me want to continue the game is the story. I want to steal and heal hearts to help people overcome trauma’s and explore subjects that don’t always get the right attention. 

RPG or Warriors?

p5strikers2

The gameplay of this game is in my opinion the perfect mix between a turn based RPG and a Warrior’s game. 

Since the first city in this game doesn’t have any side quests, I’ll only focus on the gameplay in the jail for this article. So, in the jails you can freely explore the area while enemies roam around. When you ambush an enemy or get spotted, you enter a sort of small Warrior-style battle. Where a lot of enemies spawn, and you have to hack and slash your way through. 

If you ambush them (attack them without being seen), you get the advantage. If you get spotted and the enemies attack you first, you get dizzy at the start of the battle, so the enemies can get some free shots in. So, this game has a type system that you can compare quite roughly to Pokémon in a way. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to you to choose the correct allies in a battle to fight the enemies ahead. 

The game also has hacking sections where the game plays more like a Warrior’s game than an RPG. In these sections you have to defend The Oracle while she is hacking into the system. Meanwhile, a swarm of enemies attack and their only focus is to destroy the Oracle. 

So far, this is the 3rd Warrior’s spin off I have played. Actually, the 4th depending on how you count. I have played Hyrule Warriors (and like I said, depending on how you count: Hyrule Warriors – Age of Calamity), Fire Emblem Warriors and now Persona 5 Strikers. And out of these games, I have to say that I feel that Persona 5 Strikers has the best balance between both game styles. 

This game still feels like a “normal” Persona game but with the big exception that the whole battle system is replaced by Warrior style gameplay.  And it works remarkably well. I found it a blast trying to find the best strategies to dodge enemy attacks while I tried to attack them back. The risk and reward system of using your special powers compared the environment items is amazing. 

Each character has their own unique playstyle where their character and personality shines through. The game might be a bit overwhelming at first since there are a lot of things you have to keep track of. From leveling up your characters and their persona’s, to weapons and armor, to finding enough treasures and things to have enough healing items and even a bond system where you can level up unique perks that’ll make each playthrough somewhat different from each other. 

It didn’t take long before I got used to all the mechanics and found myself extremely hooked on the game. Depending on the difficulty you choose to play this game in, this game provides the right amount of challenge in my opinion. A few times, I got quite frustrated at a battle and when I put the game down and picked it up back later, I was able to beat that section. 

Don’t forget to save

p5strikersNow, most of my time with the first chapter has been spent inside the jail of Alice. There is some time you can spend in the overworld to buy items, weapons, and armor. With the extremely responsive and smooth controls, I always felt in control and only rarely felt that the game did something unfair. 

If you have read some of my previous articles, you might know that I find good UI design extremely important and this game delivers that in spades. The menus are extremely well crafted and somewhat fun to use since you see small interactions between the Phantom Thieves that flesh them out so much more. 

This brings me to the striking visual presentation of this game. The visuals look amazing. The charm and character that is put into the visuals is outstanding. This game’s style is a combination of a Saturday morning anime and a manga/superhero comic. It’s also quite bold and not afraid to use the style to its full potential. Nothing feels out of place in my opinion. 

When it comes to the animations, these are good as well. Well, maybe this might be on me but I feel that some animations don’t give enough feedback to the player. For example, I found it quite tricky to know where my character was on the battlefield since the combat animations can throw you all over the battlefield. 

Something that might be either a sound effect problem and/or a visual problem is the lack of feedback in combat sometimes. The reaction of an effective and a non-effective attack is so similar to me, it was tricky to separate them in combat. Thankfully, the characters repeat multiple times which type of attack you need to use and when you need to be careful when your HP/SP is running low or when a status is inflicted. This is a nice middle ground to solve an issue to avoid making this game too complex or lose too much of its visual style. 

So, let’s talk about the music and sound effects shall we? Let’s start with the sound effects in this game. In my opinion, this game is walking a fine line between too much and too little sound effects. Overall, the sound effects and the sound mixing is quite good, but sometimes this game has a lot of visual information to process and the sound effects can get a tiny bit distracting. All the while, like I explained in the previous paragraph, they are quite helpful when a character shouts at you to be careful or use a certain attack to defeat an enemy. 

I wish I knew more about music, so I was able to describe the amazing soundtrack to you. Even before I started playing the Persona games, I fell in love with the unique uplifting soundtrack of these games. There are tracks with and without vocals and the Japanese and English versions are so amazing to listen to. So, really great stuff. 

One of the things I really needed to get used to was the fact that there is no “auto save” in this game. If you want to avoid loosing too much progress, keep in mind to save often at save points, or before you enter a dungeon since otherwise you might regret it. You only get a game over when all 4 party members faint. Otherwise, you can continue on playing. But, don’t forget to save since it needs to happen manually. 

And with that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. There are a few things I’ll go more in depth about if I ever finish this game and write a review about this game, but the most important things are already said. I think this game is excellent and if you enjoy (Persona) RPG’s, Warrior spin-off games, adventure games and/or action games… You owe it to yourself to check this game out. To be honest, apart from the manual saving, I barely find any flaws with this game or things I really didn’t like. 

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

Interview with GameChuck after “SpeedLimit” release

H2x1_NSwitchDS_SpeedLimit_image1600w

Welcome my dear reader! Today, I want to share something special. Last year, I took a look at a game called Speed Limit. When I looked at the game it was still in development but a demo was released. Now, this week the full version was released on all major platforms. You can find more information on the official website and on the website of the publisher. Now, instead of writing a very same-y article, I thought it would be more fun to talk about the game with the developers. So, that’s what’s going to happen today. I’m going to share an interview with you guys and girls that I had with GameChunck! Thank you so much for answering my questions. Before I start, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion and/or thoughts on the interview, the game and/or the content of this article. 

gamechuck_logo_200x200

Jonez: Hello there and welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me. So, to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking to from the development team?

Alex: Hi, I’m Alex, the CEO of Gamechuck and level designer for some small parts of Speed Limit. Most of the development was done by others but as they are too busy celebrating our pan-console release, I will try my best to tell you everything you want to know!

Jonez: So, last year a demo for Speed Limit was released. Now, we are almost a year later and the game got more development. What is new in this full version? Did the game get easier or more difficult? 

Alex: The game is much bigger than the demo – it features 10 (or more, khm khm, spoilers) levels, with 5 distinct gameplay genres, while the demo is just the first three levels (side scrolling genre and top-down). Also, we used the feedback from the demo release to make the game much more enticing, but not easier per se (although we did add Easy mode in both the demo and the full game since then).

Jonez: Now, this game got released on multiple platforms like the PS4, PS5, XBOX One, Steam and Switch. What challenges did you face in porting this game? 

Alex: The Switch is at the same time the most slick experience (they check on everything and give you detailed feedback on where they found which error) but also quite cumbersome as every change takes a long time to get approved. Also, the PS4 had some issues regarding how we draw shaders for light for the bike rear lights, but we fixed it using clever math so now it works as intended on all platforms!

Jonez: This game is almost one long interactive movie. I guess this game wasn’t the easiest to develop since you risked to damage the flow of the game. So, what was the most challenging in developing this game? 

Alex: The most difficult part was correctly figuring out how much time it will take for each feature, and since we were starting from scratch with every level (e.g. every new genre) it was really hard, but we needed to guesstimate anyway since due to porting and so on, we were operating on a schedule.

Jonez: So, can I ask if you guys have future plans for the game? Or will this game only get bug fixes?

Alex: We hope to give the game a lot of interesting updates and maybe even DLCs, because the game this well received deserves to be continually updated! I can’t promise co-op mode (although I’d really like to!) but more modes, achievements etc. – definitely!

Jonez: You know, when I played the first level. I always wondered… Can you defeat those enemy soldiers?

Alex: No, but you can reach a stalemate with them, by standing at a spot where they can’t hurt you and just keep shooting them down!

Jonez: It didn’t take long for me to find an easter egg. The Chuck Norris easter egg was a nice gag. Are there more in the game?

Alex: A lot. Let me get back to you with an exact figure later.

Jonez: As I said earlier, this game feels like some sort of interactive action movie. How did you go about testing this game? Did you always start from the start or did you test it section by section?

Alex: We tested both specific sections and the whole game, and also used the G.Round platform for testing the game with hundreds of players prior to launch so we can iron out any big issues (there weren’t any and we got incredibly glowing remarks!)

Jonez: So, an indie studio is always known for having a small team. Who were the heroes that brought this game to life? 

Alex: The dev team is 7 people (artist Jurica and the game director Igor doing pixel art, Vanja and Karlo and one student Sara coding various levels and Matija doing sounds and music) and then there’s me, Lucija doing PR/bizdev and Iggy doing community management. 10 people seems like a lot but bear in mind we weren’t all doing the game full time and we do have a lot of other games in the pipeline!

Jonez: So, one of the biggest differences I noticed is the fact there is an easy mode. Which differences are there in the easy mode compared to the normal mode?

Alex: The difference between easy and hard is almost exclusively in the number of enemies and/or their hitpoints, and of course – the true ending is not available in Easy mode!

Jonez: It wouldn’t surprise me that the game broke quite often during development. Can you share one of the funniest moments of the game breaking during development? 

Alex: There were many but here’s one that was quite fun:

Jonez: And my final question: You are also developing another game. Tell us more about it? Did you learn anything while develeoping Speed Limit that is going to be used in that new game? 

Alex: The level designer of Speed Limit is, incidentally, also the lead writer for our narrative game Trip the Ark Fantastic. A complete departure from Speed Limit, this is a slow non-combat narrative experience about the scientific method, philosophy and cute rabbits striking for better working conditions. Now, if that didn’t hook you, then the classical animation and orchestral score will!

Jonez: Thank you so much for answering my questions! I’m quite curious to see what your studio is going to publish next. I also want to thank you all for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and putting it together. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care! 

Also, don’t forget to give SpeedLimit a try!

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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

Publishing: Chubby Pixel – June 2020 newsletter

This week I didn’t have the time to write a full article. But, I still wanted to publish something. Now, one of my befriended developers Chubby Pixel had some news to share, so I decided, why not share it with my readers? So, I’ll give the word to Chubby Pixel to tell you the latest news about Suicide Guy and Woodle Tree. Take it away Chubby Pixel.

Hello!

I’m writing to you to let you know about our latest projects and updates news.

Suicide Guy VR is coming in the next few months and will include new exclusive levels.

The game will be released on Steam, Oculus Rift, and Quest store + PlayStation4  and 5 Store.

Here a mini-video to check it out in action!
https://www.reddit.com/r/PSVR/comments/gghoc6/improved_driving_system_in_vr_based_on_your/

Thanks to our fan’s support, the original game that today just passed 800 reviews on Steam! (84% Positive) – https://store.steampowered.com/app/303610/Suicide_Guy/

Here a blog post that I wrote about the game passing 150.000 copies sold:
https://chubbypixel.com/suicide-guy-a-port-mortem-3-years-after-release/

Moreover, our Nintendo Switch games Woodle Tree Adventures and Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe (includes co-op local mode) are now on a major sale (50% OFF)

https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/woodle-tree-2-deluxe-switch/

https://www.nintendo.it/Giochi/Giochi-scaricabili-per-Nintendo-Switch/Woodle-Tree-2-Deluxe-1607727.html

Thanks again for the attention,
Chubby Pixel 

First Impressions: Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (Switch) ~ Grand Adventure

DragonQuestXISPackshotLarge

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Today we are going to talk about a game with a lengthy title. It’s also a quite lengthy game to boot. I mean, this game clocks in at giving or take 60 hours of playtime. Now, in the past, I talked about other games in the series like Dragon Quest IX and Dragon Quest Builders and it’s sequel Dragon Quest Builders 2. But now it’s time to look at and talk about the newest game in the series. The 11th entry got an expanded edition on the Nintendo Switch and that’s what I have been playing for the last couple of days. And I think I’m ready to give my opinion on the question if you should spend your time, money and effort in this game or that the adventure isn’t worth it. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Grand Classical Adventure

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In this game, you play as a nameable hero. You start off in the village of Cobblestone where you partake in a coming of age ritual. It doesn’t take long before things start to go south. Well, it turns out that you are the Luminary, a legendary hero chosen by the world tree Yggdrasil to save Erdrea from evil.

Now, here is the catch. You go to the King to provide your services and things go even more south. The King accuses you of bringing evil upon his land and throws you into the dungeon. So, the stage is set for a grand adventure to prove yourself and save the world before the actual evil entity destroys the world.

The main plotline itself is nothing to really write home about. After playing Dragon Quest Builders 2, where your building was illegal, I felt that I already experienced a similar story in the franchise. Maybe I’m looking a bit too deep into this. Yet, the actual pacing and storytelling are way more enjoyable. The story turns into a journey from town to town where you have a smaller adventure in each town. It’s almost like an anime series where the hero and crew travel around the world.

The writing of this game is just amazing. From medieval speak to people speaking in English with a foreign accent, it’s just lovely. What I mean with a foreign account is that you clearly see the Spanish influences in the made-up language that they speak at some beach cities.

The voice acting really adds a lot to the personality of the characters. While some of the characters really follow some stereotype arcs, I really enjoyed the mix of characters in this game. The characters are written that well, I even started to shout right at some of the characters when they did something frustrating.

Currently, I’m not even halfway in the adventure and I have been enjoying myself throughout the story. I cannot wait to see where the story is going to take me next since the whole world seems massive and a blast to explore.

The Confused Light

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What is a massive world to explore without an interesting visual presentation? This game doesn’t disappoint in that area. One time I played Dragon Quest VII on my PlayStation 2 and I found that game extremely pretty. If you take that game and give it a 1080HD facelift, you get the visual presentation of this game. The world is colorful and extremely detailed to explore. It even has a day and night cycle that makes the world come alive.

Yet, it pains me to say it but I do have some things I disliked about the visual presentation. First of all, there are a few details that were missed while designing some towns. For example, in one of the towns, they forgot to add in a door at the backside of a store. I have posted a video about it on my Twitter. Notice how inside the store, the door is present and when you run behind the back, the door is suddenly nowhere to be seen.

Thankfully, these moments aren’t too frequent and overall, the world is extremely detailed. But, something that is somewhat broken is the triggers to change the lighting. Now, the lighting changes when you enter a building. That isn’t a problem until you start walking to edges of buildings and the light level already changes when you are still outside and next to a wall. Just look at this video I posted on my Twitter, where the ending shows off what I mean. Sadly enough, this problem occurs extremely frequently. Especially at night time and even more when the roof sticks out of the building or when the pathway has a roof itself.

It’s a shame since this is a problem that puts a damper on the excellent animation. I was extremely surprised to see characters actually react surprised or angry when you raided their cupboards or their belongings. Or the fact you can turn the camera around while in battle and see everything from every angle you wish.

Now, I think that the next issue I noticed has to do with memory management for the Nintendo Switch version but the render distance isn’t the best. This is something I can personally forgive since it affects the far off objects that get less detailed render. You can clearly see more detail appear in the frame when you walk up to it. On extremely rare occasions, the detail appears when you are just up close.

Automation

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This game plays like every other J-RPG and especially like most previous Dragon Quest games that came before it. I haven’t played all the Dragon Quest games, so I can’t tell you what’s unique in this title compared to the previous entries in the series.

If you haven’t played any of these games in the past, let me quickly explain it to you. While you take your party on a journey throughout the land, you fight various battles to make your characters stronger and let them learn new skills. With each won battle, your characters gain experience points. When they gain enough experience points, they gain a level. For each level, they get points that allow them to open up a skill in their skill tree.

There are a lot of different character classes that spice up the fighting style and gameplay. From characters that are meant for healing to characters that act as a sponge for all the attacks, better known as a tank. So, you have to choose your equipment wisely as well. You buy a strong shield for your tank and a strong wand for your healer.

There are two ways of battle encounters and this game has them both. On the overworld, the monsters are visible and roam around, so you can pick and choose your battles. Alas, while traveling in places that aren’t the overworld, like the sea, the battles are random and can happen at any moment. Thankfully, in most cases, you see the enemies so it’s not a mess to understand where which system is used.

So, during the adventure, you also have to solve puzzles where you have to look around the environment and dungeons for clues. These puzzles can range from conquering a dungeon to do a fetch side quest to using a monster to climb a crumbling building. A tight control scheme is essential for this type of games and I have to say that this game doesn’t disappoint. After you get used to the control scheme of this game, I have to say that it’s a blast to use. Some features are a bit too buried in menus for my liking but that might be the biggest complaint about that.

Everything is paired together with an amazing soundtrack and sound design. Now a lot of the soundtrack and sound effects sound extremely familiar when you have played previous games in the series. This isn’t a bad thing since this really helps to put the game into the Dragon Quest universe. Plus, the music still fits the atmosphere quite well and doesn’t get boring.

And with that said, I think I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game for now. Because I’m not even halfway done with the game, I’m not going to talk more in-depth about the game for now. When I have finished the game, or put more hours into it, I might write a more in-depth review. But, at this moment I already reached a conclusion.

This game is one of the best games I have played on the Nintendo Switch when it comes to RPG’s. The expansive world and the amazing story is an amazing journey to take part in. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the adventure will bring since I’m enjoying myself with this adventure. I also highly recommend this game to every Dragon Quest fan, RPG fan, adventure game fan and people who are looking for a lengthy and expansive game to sink their teeth into. And if you want to know if the game is for you, you can download a free demo in the Nintendo eShop to try out the game before you buy it.

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

First Impressions: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night (Switch) ~ Middle Ages Magic.

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

So, a new Metroidvania game has been released. The Metroidvania genre is one of my favorite style of games. When I heard that Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame was the director of this game, I was beyond hyped. I even mentioned this game in my top 10 games I wanted to play in 2019. And, yes, the game was even twice on that sort of list. Anyways, this game was a Kickstarter game were major flops like Mighty Number 9 and major hits like A Hat In Time. Where does this game fall? On the major flops or on the amazing titles part of the spectrum? Let’s find out in this first impressions article. Also, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. A small editor note I have to make is that I have played this game before and after the visual improvement patches applied, and I will keep this in mind for this review.

Middle Ages Magic

During the Industrial Revolution, the Alchemy Guild got scared of losing their followers and patrons. So, they decided to create Shardbinders. These are humans who are forcibly fused with demonically charged crystals. Thanks to these crystals, the Shardbinders obtained magical powers. Everything was peaceful until the Fire Nation attacked, well sorta. Kinda. The Shardbinders were sacrificed and abused to summon demons from Hell (let’s be honest, this is a sort of Fire Nation. 😉 ). Now, this whole plan backfired and brought mass destruction over the whole of England. Thankfully, the Church was able to intervene and save some areas of destruction.

Two shardbinders survived the whole massacre, Gebel and Miriam. Ten years after the incidents, Miriam wakes up from her unnatural slumber and finds out that Gebel has summoned another demon to continue the revenge of the Shardbinders on what the alchemists did to him. Miriam starts her journey accompanied by Johannes, who is a former member of the Alchemy Guild. Miriam wants to stop Gebel before the whole world is destroyed.

The story itself is nothing that special. To be quite frank, the story didn’t really grab my attention. Now, I have reviewed two Castlevania games in the past: Castlevania – Portrait of Ruin and Castlevania – Lords Of Shadow – Mirror Of Shadow and of both these games, I don’t remember a lot about the story. It’s a shame since the story has quite a lot of potential to go quite in-depth and in different directions. The story takes a backseat in this game, to a point that sometimes the story is used as a sort of in-game guide. Like, when you have defeated a boss and you talk to one of the members of the Church, she straight up tells you (this isn’t an exact quote but it’s quite similar): “I have heard rumors that one of the high ranking officers can jump again in the air. (…) You need to look for a tower where…”

Now, the cast of the voice actors of this game is just mindblowing. Miriam is voiced by Erica Lindbeck who voiced Barbie herself in a few movies and also voiced one of the leading characters in Fire Emblem Echoes. Gebel is voiced by Ray Chase who’s a voice you can also hear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as Roy and in Final Fantasy 15 as Noctis. Zangetsu is voiced by a voice acting legend by the name of David Hayter who is famous for his voice work on Solid Snake. You can dig deeper into the voice cast using this page from Behind the Voice Actors. With so much talent on board and pretty good direction, you can be sure that the dub of this game is pretty well done.

Now, what could have improved the story? Well, first of all, a bit more character development. Some characters are quite two dimensional. I barely notice any progress in these characters. Secondly, I feel that too many stereotypical characters were used. A more diverse cast of characters or characters that broke their stereotype would be a great twist in the story. And finally, be a bit less hand-holding. If you want to guide the players to a certain location to gain a new power-up, you can do that by other means. I loved the system the developers used in Monster Tale on the DS. In that game, you also have a guide to where you need to go, but it’s up to you to fight through the enemies and find your way there.

Metroidvania at its finest

In the previous section, I have already mentioned three games I have reviewed that were in the same style as this game. The two Castlevania games and Monster Tale.

If you have played games like Castlevania, Metroid, Monster Tale or Axiom Verge then you’ll know what to expect in this game. In this game, you explore a huge map, defeat different bosses, learn new techniques to make exploring easier and access unknown areas. Meanwhile, you have to fight through a lot of enemies and try to balance your items right in order for you to stay alive.

Most Metroidvania’s are anything but easy. This game is no exception. This game can be quite difficult. But, the difficulty is fun difficulty. Sometimes you aren’t strong enough or don’t have the right gear to survive the encounters. Now, some people would enjoy the challenge of this game and try to defeat this game with the weakest gear possible. Now, this means that this game has some minor forms of grinding to improve your stats and defeat some bosses easier.

Now, the map of this game is quite huge. Thankfully, there are several warp points that allow you to fast travel to other areas in the castle. These warp points are in special rooms marked in green on your map. A minor nitpick I have is that the warp point to the central base of the game is outside right after some enemy encounters. I think that it would be better inside so I can go with full health to the boss. Yeah, I’m that kind of a player. So, that’s why I mentioned it as a nitpick.

Anyways, the warp rooms aren’t the only special things on your journey. You also have to save rooms. This game doesn’t have an autosave feature, but you can save (and heal your HP/MP) at the various save rooms that are shattered around the castle.

I really love the freedom of exploration in this game. While the story is a minor disappointment to me, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Exploring the castle and the areas around it is a ton of fun. Trying out the different mechanics and abilities of Miriam is just a great experience to have.

Together with the decent controls, this game is a blast to play. Now, I have read in different reviews that the controls of this game have a bit of input lag or are a bit floaty. Thankfully, I find that they improved them a lot in the patches that the game received and I think that the future patches in November 2019 will improve the game even more.

Visually underpowered

Allow me to address the elephant in the room. Look, there it is. His name is Dumbo and he has a movie made about him. Now, let’s be a bit more serious. Visually, this game doesn’t look that great when you compare it to the other versions on PlayStation or PC. The publishers even posted a statement on the rather spotty technical performance. Now, I think that’s a great move to improve technical performance through patches. On the other hand, delaying the Switch port to work on the technical performance would have been an even better move in the first place.

While the Switch is quite powerful, compared to the other consoles on the market today… Well, it’s underpowered. So, I can understand that the Switch version has some fewer animations or visual effects. Something I think that I don’t understand is the inconsistent performance of the game and the input lag in certain areas. Now, these things will be addressed in the patched that is scheduled for November. This is a shame since this game would be an amazing title to play on Halloween night, but they will miss the mark on that completely.

With all that talk about the Switch version having a spotty performance, I do have to say… I don’t find it that bad. The issues are the worst when you play the game in undocked mode. When you play this game in docked mode, this game plays just … decent. In very rare spots, the game has a bit of frame or input lag but nothing game-breaking.

In its current state, the game still looks quite good. I think the visual presentation is great and the animations are quite good as well. Together with the amazing music and enjoyable sound effects, the audiovisual presentation still gets a pass from me. So, I’m a bit mixed on this whole thing.

The game is a blast to play and has some extremely helpful features like the ability to leave markers on your map so you can remind yourself to visit these areas later. The game even has a lot of depth with its own crafting system, various shops, various unlockable skills and builds you can make… Even when you change your outfit in the menu’s, Miriam wears the armor and outfits in the game, during gameplay, and during cutscenes.

But, the whole game is held back by the lack of polish that is now coming in the form of patches. It gives the game a wrong first impression to a lot of players. Not everybody knows that this game’s performance and visuals are going to improve. Also, I have stopped playing this game because I want to replay this game when all the patches have been released so I can experience this game in it’s the best form. And that’s what’s so disappointing to me. I’m already halfway the game and now I have to restart the whole game. Well, then again, it’s my own choice…

So yeah, this article is going to be continued. I think it would be a bit unfair to fully judge the game right now when I know that there are patches to improve the visuals, the controls and the gameplay in the near future. But, I still wanted to talk about this game so here we are. So, for a full review, you will have to come back a few weeks after the patches have been released. If I don’t forget, I’ll also link the updated article here: [TO BE ANNOUNCED.] And maybe I should go more in-depth about the gameplay in that updated article as well.

And that’s everything I currently wanted to say about this game. 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!

Review: NG – Spirit Hunter (Switch) ~ Let’s Play A Ghostly Game, Shall We?

Official Nintendo subsite

I have to admit that this year was an extremely crazy year in terms of games for me. So many amazing games have been released and still have to release. When I reviewed Death Mark last year, I was extremely hyped when I learned that a sequel was in development called NG. It was extremely difficult to find even a shred of information about this game since the abbreviation NG stands for various things like a name to companies. In any case, I didn’t have high hopes that this game was coming to the west. Image my surprise when I saw this game in the “Coming Soon” section of the Nintendo Switch eShop. I patiently waited until the release date and when the release date came, I bought it during my break and let it download while I was at work so I could play it right away when I came home. Now, was it worth it? Is this game as good as the previous game or should you skip this game? Let’s take a look at this 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.

Let’s play a Ghostly Game, shall we?

This game is the 2nd game in the Spirit Hunter series. The first game was Death Mark. This game isn’t a sequel of that game nor is it a continuation. This game just takes the whole gameplay concept and puts it into a new story and setting.

The story of this game is quite interesting. You play as the protagonist, that you can name yourself. His mother died a few years prior to this game and now he is living alone. His aunt took him in. She is a horror novel author and she runs a bar on the side. Her daughter became quite good friends with the protagonist. One evening, the protagonist finds a black postcard at his doorstep inviting him to play a game with a Princess. He simply ignores this because he thinks that it’s a simple prank.

But, that’s a mistake he is going to regret since not too long after he encounters his first ghost. After that, a ghost kidnaps his cousin and invites him to play a game. If he doesn’t play along, the curse will kill him.

Now, if you have played Death Mark, the curse works quite similar to the Death Mark of the original game. This curse is a sort of time limit in which you have to solve the case of the spirit you have to defeat or purify. Unlike the previous game, the protagonist doesn’t have one evening to deal with the spirit, but he has a bit more time.

While I would love to tell you more about the story of this game, I don’t think that’s a great idea. Since the story is that more enjoyable the less you know in advance. The twists and turns of the story are just amazing. The writing, the jokes, the pacing, the horror… everything comes together quite nicely in this game and I’m bumped out that I have finished this game.

There are some mechanics in this game that even give some replay value to this game. Now that I have finished this game, I want to replay this game and take it in a totally different direction to see where I end up.

This game has some minor Japanese voice acting as well. This isn’t overused at all and it’s used to add some punch to certain dialogues. The voice acting itself is done quite well, the voice acting of the ghosts are personally my favorites. The creepy effects and distortion the developers added to the voice acting is just amazing.

The slider of spooks

An extremely nice feature is the different modes you can play the game in. Like Death Mark, this game contains some jump scares and spooks. They are extremely well crafted and in most cases fit the story nicely. Also, they trigger when you investigate certain sections so it’s quite possible to miss multiple spooks. Some spooks mess with the text or the screen instead of a ghost popping up.

These different modes affect the amount of jump scares and spooks that happen. When you dislike these spooks or jumps scares, you can tone them down and even turn them off completely. I played through this game with all the jump scares intact and I have to say that it added quite a lot to the atmosphere of this game.

The atmosphere is quite creepy, to begin with. The writing draws you into the game and the amazing artwork and illustrations make the world come alive. There isn’t a lot in terms of animations but the beautiful artwork more than makes up for it. For example, the artwork of some death scenes is just extremely well done.

The character portraits, the design of the spirits, the design of the environments… It’s clear that quite a lot of thought and detail has been put into it. I’m quite thankful that the developers added a button to hid the on-screen UI to take screenshots of those amazing scenes to make them even more memorable.

Something that I find a tad bit irritating was the decision to make the “L” button the skip dialogue option. I think that another button like one of the arrow keys on the D-pad would have worked better. Since I can’t count on my two hands anymore the number of times I accidentally pressed the button and skipped a bit of the text. Thankfully, there is an easy way to bring up the log and you can re-read what you skipped.

Everything goes in that log that appears on the screen. From you trying to use an item to decisions you have to make. For some reason, I wasn’t always able to bring up this log easily. In most cases when the log refused to open, I was trying to investigate something. So, quickly going out of investigation mode was the solution.

Speaking of this mode, this is the only mode that allows you to save your game. You are unable to access the save menu while in a dialogue section. Thankfully, the dialogues aren’t Corpse Party Blood Drive long, so an investigation section can be right up the corner.

One thing that I found a real shame is some minor bugs in the UI of the options menu. In one option, the text overflows its checkbox and in another option, they forgot to remove a character at the end of the description. These are minor mistakes that can easily be patched out.

Gameplay-wise, this game is quite addictive. You have to explore the different area’s to either purify or destroy the spirit haunting the place. In order to do this, you explore at night with a partner and search for different subsections of this area.

You explore parts of a town, an office building, and various other locations. You search these locations for clues and items to learn more about the spirit and try and defeat/purify them. The better you explore and investigate the area, the more information you have in the fight with the spirit. If you have played Death Mark, you will feel right at home since it looks quite similar.

I found the gameplay of this game quite addictive. I wanted to keep playing and experience the story to it’s a full conclusion. And yes, now that I have beaten the game, I’m considering playing through the whole game again and trying to take a different route to see where it leads me. I know that this game has multiple endings, but I would love to see how much endings there are.

One extremely welcome improvement over Death Mark I have to mention is that when you want to swap partners, you can do that more easily now. You don’t have to go the whole way back to the mansion, you can easily go to the start of the place you are searching and ask the person directly.

Think quick!

There are some more things to do in this game compared to Death Mark. The items you choose still decide the outcome of purification of the spirit of destruction, but there are more things that matter now. Speaking about that in more detail would spoil certain story sections.

The whole spirit fighting mechanic has been reworked. Now, you don’t have to combine items anymore to attack the spirit, but you have to use your items in the area and analyze the situation. I love these spirits fights a whole lot more compared to Death Mark. The improvements these fights bring to the table are just amazing. It brings a bit more challenge to the table.

On top of that, there are now 2 styles of quick decision-making sections. Both work extremely similar and have the same outcome when you fail. A Game Over. One of these styles is a crisis choice, as you can see in the screenshot in this section of the article. Like Death Mark, the “1000” ticks down as soon as you are able to make a selection. Unlike Death Mark, you can’t find charms to increase this time and it also resets back to 100 each and every time you encounter that section.

Now, this game is quite lengthy. To beat the game, you will need to put give or take 20 hours aside. Let’s not forget to mention the fact that this game is somewhat replayable due to the “emotional reaction system”. Now, you can react with different emotions in certain sections. I have no idea if this makes a difference to the story. But, I have tried it one and it makes the characters react quite differently.

Something that does matter is during some sections you have to make harsh decisions that affect the story to a big degree. I wish I could talk about them, but that would spoil the big parts of the story and that’s something I’m trying to avoid in this review.

Another interesting game mechanic is the “D-Man”. This strange man texts you riddles that you can solve to find cards. These cards contain throwbacks to the previous game or add to the lore of the game. These are a joy to read but contain some spoilers of the previous game. Thankfully, only about the DLC bonus case, so it isn’t THAT bad. Now, the search for these cards works in a very unique way. As soon as you get the text, you have to look around in the area you are in. As soon as you exit the area, you will be unable to search for that card again. You’ll also lose the items you obtained and needed to find the said card. So, be careful.

An easy question to ask is, how difficult is this game? Well, this game is tricky. There are some sections that took me several attempts. In most cases, it was because I overlooked one item or didn’t check my area thoroughly enough. Thankfully, the game is quite forgiving with checkpoints and when you fail a crisis choice or spirit encounter, you can easily restart the whole fight by selecting the wanted option in the “Game Over” menu.

One of the biggest mistakes in this game is the save system in my opinion. I feel that it’s a downgrade compared to the system of Death Mark. There is no autosave, there are fewer save slots and there is less information on the save/load screen compared to the previous game. This is something I wish that will be improved in the possible sequel. Yes, a sequel has been sort of announced/confirmed. You can read more information on the article that Gematsu published a month ago.

The controls of this game are quite simple. They are easy to grasp and master. The only minor thing is that in some areas the spotlight isn’t bright enough to see where the spotlight is on the background art. Thankfully, this happens in only a few places, so it isn’t THAT bad.

Something I’m a bit mixed about is that this game doesn’t have a lot of music. Most of the music is also re-used from the previous game or sounds extremely similar. The music is amazing in this game and I wish I able to buy the soundtrack somewhere. Since I want to add this soundtrack to my music library when I’m relaxing or writing other articles.

And with that said, I said everything I wanted to say about this game. I have left out a few things so they can be surprised at you when you play this game. I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article, don’t you think?

Conclusion

The bad:
-Some minor UI elements that could easily be fixed.

-The save feature could have been expanded quite a bit.
The good:

+ Amazing writing and story.

+ Great visuals.

+ The ability to disable the jump scares if you dislike them.

+ Great challenging puzzles

+ ….
Final thoughts:
This game is quite an improvement over Death Mark. Last year, Death Mark was one of my favorite games of 2018. This game is one of my favorite games of this year. This game is the perfect game to play during Halloween. I can’t recommend this game enough for fans of Death Mark, fans of horror games and fans of visual novels. I would even recommend this game to fans of adventure games.

This game is one of the best visual novels I have played in a while. And it’s up to high competition like Ai: Somnium Files. This will be quite interesting in my “Top 10 Games of 2019”. Take it from me, give this game a try. Because it’s totally worth playing and experiencing this game.

Of course, this game has some shortcomings like the bare bones save system and some minor annoyances with the controls but these are easily overlooked and don’t hinder the enjoyment of the game too much or even at all.

Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this game 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: 100/100

First Impressions: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) ~ Kotaro Uchikoshi Is At It Again.

ai-the-somnium-files-588803.10

Official website

One of my favorite horror series is the Zero Escape series. I have reviewed every game here on my blog. I have played through all of these games again this year since I introduced the series to a good friend. When I’m reviewing adventure games or visual novels, I often find myself referencing 999, Virtue’s Last Reward or Zero Time Dilemma. Now, sadly enough this trilogy of games has ended with Zero Time Dilemma. Now, last month I learned that the director and main writer of the series were finishing development on a new game. Ai: The Somnium Files. When I saw Kotaro Uchikoshi’s name in the promotion material, I got extremely hyped. I honestly pre-ordered the game right away. Now, do I regret that pre-order or was it worth it? I’m going to give you an answer to that question in the form of this first impression review of the game. And before I start, I always say: feel free to leave a comment with your opinion in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game itself.

Date and Aiba

3568502-3 - kopie

In this game, you play as special agent Date who is investigating a gruesome murder. Now, this is unlike any detective game because Date has a special ability. His left eye is quite special. In this left eye, an AI lives. This AI is called Aiba and helps Date to make phone calls, access databases, x-ray vision, zooming and so much more. On top of that, Date can explore people’s somnium, which is created by their dreams. These dreams can help in the investigation whenever you need to get information out of a witness that refuses to give testimony.

The story is quite complex and takes a lot of twists and turns. Like the previous games that Uchikoshi worked on, this game has branching paths as well. Depending on certain actions you take during the somnium exploration, the story can go in very different directions. Now, I have already seen one ending of the game and it even got me a bit emotional while playing it. The writing and pacing of this game are wonderful. While there is some dry and lame humor in this game, the actual jokes work quite well and made me laugh out loud more than once.

I’m leaving quite a lot of details on the story out on purpose since this game is better experienced without a lot of knowledge of the story. Go in this game as blind as possible. Since the twists are better without knowing them in advance. Which honestly, speaks for itself don’t you think? Now, something that I quite liked is the various nods to the Zero Escape series. Certain sound effects and visual cues come from or are heavily inspired by the Zero Escape series.

Now, before I talk more about that comparison, I want to talk about the voice acting. While you can play through this game with the original Japanese cast, I’m playing through this game with the English voice actors and I have to say that the dub of this game is amazing. The cast has been cast quite well. Maybe I might be a bit biased since I’m heavily invested in the story and now I’m quite used to the voice work of the voice actors.

He is at it again

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The gameplay in this visual novel is quite varied. This isn’t a visual novel where just choosing between a few options makes the difference. In this visual novel, there are various puzzles to solve and dialogue trees to explore. The first gameplay type is simply one where you explore a location. This can be a crime scene or the house of a suspect. In these scenes, the Date doesn’t move around. You explore your surroundings to find various clues and leads. To make sure you didn’t miss anything, whenever the text turns green whenever you move over the cursor over something, that means that there is still some interaction to be done. If the text turns gray, you have done every possible interaction.

So you go through various dialogue trees where you get new information. Whenever you missed something, you can quickly bring up the log and replay the voice clips. Something that I found a bit missing, is a sort of summary of the events that happened. Since very different things happen in the story depending on the path you take. So, a quick summary of past events might be helpful. Especially since there are character bios and a word list where various terms are explained.

Speaking of these character bios and terms, these are handled amazingly. The various hidden jokes and references add so much to the atmosphere of the game. Especially the way how some explanations are written, it’s almost like writers are talking to the player directly. Sometimes even saying that if you want more information that you “have to look it up on the internet.” And as an IT guy, I found the binary joke in one of the character profiles an extremely nice touch.

Now, the exploration in this game is quite limited and somewhat linear. While you can choose which location you visit first, it doesn’t make a difference in the story if you go in order or out of order. So, this is quite linear. Now, the dream sequences are something completely different. Now, if you played any game in the Zero Escape series, you will quickly get used to these sections. These dream puzzles are the escape rooms of this game, but the big difference is that you can move in the whole area.

If you compare the gameplay of this game with any game in the Zero Escape series, I have to compliment this game for improving the dialogue sections of the game. The dialogue and story sections are more involved now and you can choose in which order you experience it. This makes the game more accessible and doesn’t dump a lot of text and story on you all at once.

That said, now the dream sequences and puzzles are a blast to play through. Some of them are a tad bit too easily to my liking, but the later puzzles more than makeup for it. For one puzzle, I even considered using a walkthrough but after a lot of trial and error, I figured it out and it gave me such an amazing feeling.

In each puzzle, you have to unlock various mental locks. You can do this by exploring and interacting with the dream. Because you are exploring a dream, extremely strange things can happen. So, you have to make sure you understand why and what is going wrong. There is a catch, you have 6 minutes to solve the whole puzzle. If you don’t, you get a game over. You can use 3 tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. If you go back one checkpoint, you use one token. If you go back two checkpoints, you use 2 tokens.

Now, you have to plan your actions right since each action uses a certain amount of time. With some actions, you earn special bonuses that can increase or decrease the used time in the game. It’s very important that you plan ahead and that you are sure of the option you pick. Now, whenever you are standing still, your clock ticks down slower than when you are moving. Take this time to plan out your moves and make sure you aren’t losing time by walking in the wrong direction.

This whole mechanic gives the game a very tense atmosphere. Am I going to have enough time to crack the other mental locks or have I lost too much time in the previous sections? Sometimes it’s better to restart the whole puzzle instead of using your tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. Now, you can also use these tokens during gameplay. The time you had on the clock is the time you have when you return to that checkpoint. You get 3 tokens for each puzzle and they reset whenever you restart the whole puzzle.

I was pretty interested in the game whenever I saw the teaser trailer, but the gameplay is not disappointing me at all. It’s one of the best games I have played this year. And to be honest, if the quality of the game keeps up during the rest of the game, I think there are big chances that this game might be my Game Of The Year. And yes, maybe my bias towards the author and director of this game might have some to do with it, but you still have to deliver a great product and gameplay and story-wise, I think they more than succeed here.

Pretty and funny

AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES_20190905202822

Visually, this game looks amazing. The detail in the character models and the environment are just amazing. Compared to Zero Time Dilemma, the animation work got a huge overhaul. The character portraits are no longer static, they have the same animation as the actual characters on screen. That way you can still see their animations whenever you missed their animations because you were looking around.

The little details in the animations are mindblowing. For example, there was a scene where a teacher was talking about a student and when she was talking about the student, her head actually moved towards the student itself and the student broke her idle animation and looked at her teacher. These things might be small moments but are moments that give just that bit of extra flavor and atmosphere to the game.

On top of that, the audiovisual presentation of this game is equally as good as the animation. Some parts of the soundtrack reminded me of a lot of the music that’s used in the Zero Escape series. Now, there are some sound effects that are exactly the same from the Zero Escape series like the save sound and some other sound effects. If it’s intentional, I found it a great easter egg for people who played the previous games. Now, it’s also quite possible that they used the same sound library to save some development money and even if that’s the case, I wouldn’t mind at all.

Surprisingly, the composer of this game also wrote the music for BloodStained and the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games on (3)DS. The Zero Escape series’ soundtracks were composed by Shinji Hosoe who wrote music for Fate/Extra and Tekken 6. The composer of this game is Keisuke Ito and he did an amazing job with his team to create this soundtrack.

One of the biggest shames of this game is the fact that sometimes those games have some stuttering or some major slowdowns during gameplay. Thankfully these don’t have that often and it only affects the Visuals and not music nor the voice acting. Most of these slowdowns happen during dialogues or when a lot of animation is playing. On these moments, the fan of my Switch didn’t blast me away like in Dragon Quest Builders 2.

If I’m allowed to nitpick just a minor bit, I can’t remember exactly where but there are just 1 or 2 lines that aren’t voice acted. These are very short lines and if you are just following the story, you might not even notice them. I clearly remember that one of these lines was said by Date somewhere in the first few sections of the story. I think it was in a conversation between Boss, Aiba, and Date. But given the whole script of this game, just one or two missed lines is something that isn’t THAT bad and can be easily looked over.

This game has only one difficulty level. The overall difficulty of this game is quite well done, the difficulty scaling is very well done. Some puzzles require some trial and error but once it clicks, the whole thing makes sense. The biggest challenge is in the exploration of the dreams since you need to think fast and think about the time limit.

The controls of this game are almost perfect. The only thing that’s missing is touchscreen controls. But hey, that’s huge nitpick since the controls are quite responsive and easily mastered. Thanks to the amazing UI, I can find any negatives about the controls and UI. Apart from maybe one minor thing. I find the text in the word list and character bios a little bit too small to read when I’m playing in docked mode and when I’m sitting a bit too far away from the screen. All the other text can be read just fine, apart from that part.

I’m also forgetting to talk about something quite important and that’s the save system. While there is an autosave system present in the game, you also have three save slots you can use. Thanks to these three save slots, I’m able to continue to play the game by myself but also save at the point me left off so I could pick up the game right where I left off when I played it for the next time.

Now there is some minor replay value when you want to unlock everything. During each Somnium, there is an eye hidden that when collected and finished the Somnium without failing; you unlock additional concept art. These are quite fun to watch and a great reward for people who explore the game to the smallest detail.

Now, this review is already getting extremely long for a first impression. It’s quite clear what I’m thinking of this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this first impression up. This game comes highly recommend to everybody who enjoys adventure games, puzzle games, mystery games, visual novel games and games like the Zero Escape series. This game is one of the best games I have played in 2019 and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. Apart from some minor flaws like the slowdowns, this game is in my eyes as good as perfect. It’s such a shame that this game doesn’t get the publicity that it deserves. I hope that with this article more people give this game a try and give it the audience it deserves. 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.

One minor side note, this game is also on PS4 and PC.