Review: Pokémon Pinball (Gameboy)

By Merman (@merman1974)

Console: Game Boy Color (playable on DMG Game Boys, and Super Game Boy for Super NES)
Developers: HAL Laboratory & Jupiter
Publisher: Nintendo
Release dates: Japan – April 14th 1999, North America – 28th June 1999, PAL – Australia July 13th 1999 and Europe October 6th 2000

pp_box_art_hires

– US box art.

pp_japan_box_art

 Japanese box art –

 

 

 

 

A Pokémon pinball spin-off makes a lot of sense, not least because the Pokéball is round like a pinball. Let us look back at some of the unique features of the first Pokémon Pinball game.

pp_main_title

– Title screen.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pokémon you are catching are of course from the original Generation One game, Blue and Red (as they are known to Western audiences). The game has two separate tables, called Blue and Red, featuring the Pokémon from the relevant game. Unlike other Pokémon titles, you do not need to trade to unlock all 151 in the battery-backed Pokédex – but it is possible to trade high-scores via the Game Boy Color’s infrared port, as well as print out high scores if you attach a Game Boy Printer. There is a unique screen surround when playing on the Super Game Boy attachment for Super NES. Although the cartridge can be played on earlier DMG models of Game Boy, certain features are disabled (including the animated Pokémon in the Pokédex) and the graphics are of course textured monochrome rather than full color.

ppblue_supergameboy

– Super Game Boy surround with the Blue table.

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_DMG_capture – Playing the Red table on a DMG Game Boy.

 

 

 

 

 

The game was a joint development between HAL Laboratory and Jupiter, under license from Game Freak. HAL is of course known for their work on the Kirby games, with former employees and then President Satoru Iwata moving on to become Nintendo’s president. And in 2020 HAL moved part of its staff into Nintendo’s Tokyo Building, meaning it now shares offices with Pokémon creators Game Freak, 1Up Studios, and Nintendo EPD Tokyo. Jupiter is based in Kyoto, with a Tokyo sub-office. The company’s motto translates as “Let’s Play! Let’s Smile!” and it has a long history of releasing games for Nintendo’s handheld consoles – from Game Boy to Switch. Jupiter also worked on the -Game Boy Camera’s built-in software and created an unreleased Pokémon Picross game for Game Boy Color (which was uncovered in the recent large leak of Nintendo data, after only being known about through a few magazine articles of the time).

pp_us_cartridge

– The Pokémon Pinball cartridge with its distinctive shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first glance, the Game Boy Color cartridge for Pokémon Pinball is much larger than normal. At the top is the cover for a AAA battery. This powers the rumble motors inside the cartridge, much like the force feedback found in more recent controllers. This feature is disabled when playing on the Super Game Boy. The Japanese and American versions allow you to switch the Rumble, so it is either on or off. The European cart offers a choice of strengths – Off, Mild or Strong. It is one of a few unique Game Boy cartridge designs with extra hardware inside, alongside the likes of Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, Wario Ware Twisted, and Yoshi’s Universal Gravitation.

 

ppblue_field_complete

– The complete Blue table.

The complete Red table – ppred_field_complete

How do you go about catching ‘em all in this pinball spin-off? There are common modes to both tables, so it is best to look at the first and then explain the differences. The player can enter Catch ‘Em Mode by flipping the Pokéball over the GET light two or three times. A different type of Pokémon will be available to catch if you light it three times. Then the mode is activated by hitting a particular target – Bellsprout on Red and Cloyster on Blue. A silhouette of a Pokémon will then appear at the bottom of the table and must be filled in by hitting the pop bumpers (at the top of the table – Voltorbs on the Red table and Shellders on Blue). This will fill in the silhouette and make the Pokémon itself appear in the middle, so it must be hit three times to light up the word CATCH! (This is shown as GET in the Japanese version). Each Pokémon caught is recorded in the Pokédex, and awards one of three Pokéballs needed to reach the Bonus Stage (lighting up in the middle of the table). If you encounter a Pokémon but do not capture it, its image appears as a shadow in the Pokédex until you capture it another time.

ppred_abra_reveal

– Abra is being revealed for capture.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_zubat_reveal2

– Zubat is almost revealed.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_bellsprout_2hits

– Bellsprout has taken two hits.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_zubat_0hits

– Hit Zutbat three times with the ball.

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_abra_2hit

– One more hit to capture Abra.

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have caught a Pokémon, the EVO light must be passed over three times to light it up and enter Evolution Mode by hitting the target (Ditto on Red and Slowpoke on Blue). The player uses the flipper buttons to choose between any Pokémon already captured that can evolve. Arrows will guide the player to where the necessary EX (Experience), Evolution Stone, or Link Cable are hidden on the field. The player must collect three of these items; hitting the wrong location will mean the player must send the ball around the outer “loop” of the table or wait 10 seconds for a fresh item to appear and the Pokémon to recover from “fainting”. Both Evolution Mode and Catch’ Em Mode are played against a time limit that gradually counts down. Get the three items in Evolution Mode before time runs out and a hole appears in the middle of the table; flipping the ball into it will secure the Evolution for the selected Pokémon and fill in its new Pokédex entry.

ppblue_choose_evo

– Here on the Blue table, choosing a Pokémon to Evolve.

 

 

 

 

ppblue_evo_ex_token

– An Experience Token to be hit.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_evo_1ex

– One EX token down, two to go.

 

 

 

 

 

Once the player has three Pokéball icons lit from captures, the Bonus Stage can be activated by hitting the open center hole. Red has Bonus Stages based on Diglett and Gengar, while Blue has Meowth and Seel. Completing both Bonus Stages on either table will then open the special Mewtwo Bonus Stage. Diglett requires the player to knock down all the Digletts and then hit Dugtrio at the top three times; the player only gets one ball on this stage. Gengar is played against a 1:30 minute time limit in the graveyard. Hitting Gastly ten times will launch Haunted; hitting Haunted ten times will see the player facing a huge Gengar, which must be hit five times to complete the stage. Meowth throws coins around, and the player must collect them with the ball; hitting more than one pile in a row increases the multiplier (the first coin is worth 1, the second is worth 2, and so on). Dropping (draining, in pinball parlance) the ball resets the multiplier and costs four coins. Against a one-minute time limit, the player must collect 20 coins to complete the stage. Seels swim around underwater, with their heads “popping up” every so often. Hit ahead with the Pokéball and a point/icon is earned, with the chance to earn multipliers as in Meowth’s stage. The player has 1:30 to collect 20 icons but can continue to earn points after they reach 20 until time runs out.

Mewtwo’s Bonus Stage is more challenging, as the Legendary Pokémon is surrounded by six moving black circles. Hitting a circle earns a million points and hitting Mewtwo himself earns 50,000,000. With just 2:00 to play, the player must accumulate 25 hits on Mewtwo to capture it. Fortunately, each hit also removes a black circle. A clever player can fail and replay Mewtwo’s bonus stage to earn huge scores.

To simulate a Trainer moving around the region, Map Move is used. The starting location is chosen at random from a shortlist, with different areas for each table. Each area also has its own types of Pokémon available. Red requires you to hit Diglett twice to enter Map Move, while Blue requires three hits on Poliwag or Psyduck. Once these triggers on the table are hit, the player has 30 seconds to hit key targets and make a Map Move. This means a player will play three locations from the “Area 1” list, two from the “Area 2” list, and then the sixth and final area visited will be Indigo Plateau on both tables. Mew can be encountered on Indigo Plateau, but its strength means it would take 1024 hits to capture – and so its entry is added to the Pokédex on finding it rather than capture.

ppblue_mapmove_mtmoon

– The trainer has arrived at Mt. Moon.

 

 

 

 

 

At the top of each table, above the bumpers, are three channels. Dropping the ball through a channel lights one, and the position of lit channels can be cycled with the flippers. Passing over a lit light will turn it off again. Note that on the Red table, hitting Staryu toggles whether the player can upgrade the ball using the channels. Once all three channels are lit the Pokéball upgrades, giving a higher score multiplier. The basic Pokéball becomes a Great Ball (x2 multiplier), then an Ultra Ball (x3), and finally a Master Ball (x5). Combined with the basic table multiplier this can rapidly increase your score. However, each ball only lasts a short while and will change back to the previous strength – and draining the ball off the bottom of the screen reverts to the standard Pokéball.

ppblue_masterball

– A Master Ball with its x5 bonus multiplier.

 

 

 

 

 

Also on each table are the CAVE lights (HOLE in Japan) that can be lit up by the ball passing over them. Once all four are lit, the Slots feature becomes active (but only if the player is not in another mode – i.e., Catch ‘Em, Evolution, or Map Move). The slot machine is started by putting the ball into the center hole. The reel spins to offer an upgrade, with the reel slowing down once the player presses A. Among the upgrades are Small and Big Scores, a Pokéball upgrade, or an increase in score multiplier. The ball Saver protects the player for either 30, 60, or 90 seconds (or until the ball is drained twice), while the Pika power-up can be handy. Normally a Pikachu will sit in one of the two drain channels at the bottom of the table and can be moved between them with the flippers. If his power meter is fully charged – by hitting the spinner on the outer loop, filling the thunder icon – then he will fire his Thunder Strike to act as a kickback, saving the ball from draining. If you get the Pika bonus you have two Pikachus, protecting on both sides and able to charge. The Slots can also award an extra Ball (life) or automatically start a mode – Catch ‘Em, Evolution, or Map Move.

ppred_slot

– The Slot is open.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_slot_smallbonus

– The Small Bonus awards a miserly few points.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pika_bonus

 – Gaining the Pika bonus

 

 

 

 

 

 

The player starts with three Pokéballs, but once all balls are lost it is Game Over. Helpfully the Ball Saver is activated for 30 seconds at the start of each life. There is a separate high score list for each table, and as mentioned you can transfer these scores to another Game Boy Color via infrared for your friend to beat. Stats are shown after each ball, awarding bonus points for the number of Pokémon caught or evolved with that ball (times the score multiplier in effect), as well extra for turning the spinner multiple times. As well as flipping the flippers, the player can tilt the table to shake a stuck ball loose – but it is not often needed.

ppred_ballsaved

– Ball Saved! Launch it again.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_slot_saved

– I was going for the Slot but missed the ball.

 

 

 

 

 

Positive reviews of Pokémon Pinball give it a GameRankings average of 81.73%. This included 32 out of a possible 40 from legendary Japanese magazine Famitsu. GameSpot’s 8.7 ratings praised the display and presentation but did feel the physics were poor – and the rumble was just a “nice novelty”. CNET was more positive, calling it one of the best pinball games for the Game Boy Color and “more than a shameless cash-in on the Pokémon phenomenon”.

Looking back, these reviews seem fair. The major problem with the game – as in several Game Boy pinball titles – is the way the viewpoint “flicks” between two halves of the table. Although other Game Boy Color pinball games managed to achieve scrolling tables, the 8-bit processor was slow for moving a large table around. The physics are mixed but for the most part, the ball moves realistically. The flippers take some getting used to as there are limited angles, so it is more about controlling the speed of the ball when you hit it to get the right target. And I found the fixed launch speed unusual; most pinball games simulate the spring-based “plunger” which gives the possibility of different launch speeds and skill shots. Graphics are pleasing with some cute, animated Pokémon – although they do not move around (except in the bonus rounds). It is of course the long-term challenge of catching ‘em all that will keep you playing. Personally, I prefer the Blue table, but both are great fun to play in short bursts.

ppred_hiscore

– Red table high scores, storing the top five scores.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_hiscore

– Blue table high scores, with the names of the companies involved.

 

 

 

 

There are some other interesting problems and changes between regions, beyond the obvious Language selection menu for Europe. Japanese and American versions allow the player to reconfigure all the controls, but European users are limited to a choice of three pre-set control schemes. The Pokédex entries are taken from Red and Blue with a full stop added at the end. But there are spelling mistakes and translation errors in there. The Japanese text in-game displays the Romanised Japanese names (Poppo for Pidgey, Pawou for Seel) but the Pokédex itself shows the names in kanji. The Cutting Room Floor website (https://tcrf.net/Pok%C3%A9mon_Pinball) reveals unused graphics that could have been a third table or layout, as well as an unused Japanese font. Entering the Game Genie code 000-21D-E6E unlocks a hidden Debug menu that allows you to switch between Game Boy Color and DMG mode for earlier Game Boys.

ppblue_keyconfig

– The Key Config screen from the US game.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pokedex_geodude_anima

 

– Geodude animating in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pokedex_shadow_meowth

 – I encountered a Meowth but failed to capture it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_abra_text2

 – The second page of text for Abra in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

 

 

The music by Go Ichinose is particularly good for the hardware, reusing familiar themes from the games and the anime. Interestingly the Blue Table’s background theme has a melody that appeared in Pokémon Gold and Silver when visiting Ecruteak City and Cianwood City – games that were released seven months after Pokémon Pinball. Red’s background melody meanwhile is from the Generation II games, when visiting Kanto province. Catch ‘Em Mode on the Blue table uses an instrumental version of “Aim To Be A Pokémon Master” – the original opening theme of the anime.

If you have never played Pokémon Pinball, I can recommend it. For pinball fans, there are some quirks to be endured, but Pokémon fans will get a real kick out of it.

OVERALL: 8/10

ppblue_gameover

 – Game Over!

Curious for more? Well, this article is part of a collaboration between various content creators where we took a look back together on the Pokémon franchise. Feel free to read all the other articles by following the links you can find in the hub article.

 

First Impressions: The Hive (Steam) ~ War With And Of Bugs

thehiveSteam Store page

One of my favorite game genres is RTS games. The satisfaction that you get from building up your empire, setting up an economy, and preparing yourself to defeat the enemy. It can be such a rewarding feeling. Games like Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War are just three of the amazing games I have played to death when I was a kid. Now, when I got a mail from the fine folks over at Skydome Entertainment with a press code for The Hive and full freedom with my article, I was extremely excited. This game has been under development for several years now. The first development blog posts on the Steam Store page date all the way back to December 2014 and the latest patch has been released on March 9th, 2020, which is version 1.203. This is the version I’ll talk about in this article, so if this game got an update, it’s possible that some things in this article or no longer relevant. So, without further ado, I think it’s high time that we take a look at this game and it’s worth your time or if you should skip this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

War With Bugs

TheHive2Something happened to the world. The story of this game starts off in 2175, where our planet Earth got attacked and destroyed. Humanity was able to build a ship and leave Earth before it was completely destroyed and went off a journey to look for a new planet to life. After a human lifetime of searching, a new planet in a new solar system was found. The humans were taken out of their cryogenic sleep to start-up life anew in the harsh climate. But, something is alive underneath the crust of that planet. Something awakens in the City Of Ancients that might prove a big issue for the humans and the catch is, it’s you that takes control of the new species and try and help to find it’s old glory.

You play as The Hive and you are the leader of bugs living in The City Of Ancients. The story gets more interesting in the further chapters but I’m not going to spoil it. To be honest, I got some Overlord vibes from the story. Maybe because both games are about minions you control and have their own unique abilities. The atmosphere is similar to a certain degree. The plot of this game is quite enjoyable and it didn’t disappoint at all.

One thing I should mention is that this game has no skirmish mode as far as I know. So, that means if you finish the 12-ish hour-long campaign, you basically have beaten the game. You could try to beat it on a higher difficulty to challenge yourself but outside that, the game has no real replay value after defeating the campaign.

Now, this game also has voice acting. The voice acting in this game is quite impressive. The production value is impressive for being an indie title. It feels that the voice actors put their heart and soul into the characters and gave them a nice personality. I especially liked the effects they put on the voice for the Insect Advisor.

While this game takes place in a magical universe, there isn’t a lot of technobabble. For those who don’t know that term, it means that everything has its own name and there are a million exposition dumps. If you have played an RTS game in the past, you will know right what to do and the war of the bugs can begin.

War of Bugs

TheHive1So, the gameplay loop in this game is that you have to explore the caves underneath the planet to find a way up. You learn a lot about the War and the fight against the other species that took place. While most levels use the usual RTS gameplay loop of build city, build the economy, build an army, find enemy, attack the enemy army, destroy enemy base; a few puzzles and unique twists are thrown into the mix.

In terms of gameplay and mechanics, I have a mixed feeling. There are things that I enjoyed quite a lot and there are things that baffled me. Let’s do a round of good thing – bad thing to sum a few things up.

So, while building your empire, you can not only rotate around the camera but the buildings as well. Man, I love features like these. It makes it less awkward when I placed a barracks in a corner and my units spawn out of a wall from the building. Alas, the building of buildings has one thing that I found frustrating. I have gotten so used to the fact that you can cue up buildings to build, but that doesn’t work in this game.

The gathering of resources works in a unique way. Food doesn’t rot away and workers don’t have to walk back and forth to the hive. A special cart rides out from the nearest gathering point to collect the resources. So, your workers put all the gather resources on a pile and these carts come and pick it up. The resources don’t even rot away and you don’t have to do anything for it to collect it. The only “downside” is that you can only use one worker per resource gathering point. Now, what’s the bad thing here?

Well, there is a soft-lock potential. The resources aren’t infinite. Now, imagine this scenario in the Age of Empires II. There is no more wood on the map but you need wood for your archers. What can you do? Well, you can build up a ton of farms and trade that food over for gold to buy wood at the market. This avoids the issue that if everything of one resource is gathered, it’s impossible to get. Now, in The Hive, there is no such thing as a market or a farm. Meaning that every decision counts. Thankfully, you really have to make bad decision after bad decision in order for you to soft-lock yourself but the fact that the potential is there always worried me.

The UI of this game is pretty impressive. The options menu is something that I can only praise. An explanation of what key does what? It’s a feature I’ll miss in other games. If only, a similar explanation appeared for the graphic options, but hey, that would clutter the UI of the graphics options a bit too much. Yet, I have two things that I disliked about the UI. First of all, if I may nitpick, I found the text on the buttons on the pause menu a bit hard to read since the text color and the color of the buttons are somewhat close to each other. And second, the visual design of the menu’s that you open using the pause menu are so different in design… I mean, the pause menu has a sort of cave theming like the UI in-game, and suddenly, a more space / modern UI appears for the options menu.

The fact that your vision cone appears on the mini-map is a great feature and it even rotates with you when you rotate the camera. Yet, I do have a complaint. It doesn’t change size when you zoom and/or out and especially, it always appears a bit underneath the place where you click on the mini-map. I can understand why this happens since the location of the camera isn’t where you click but a bit underneath that spot. But, it gave me a feeling I wasn’t able to click where I wanted on the mini-map.

It’s great that you can skip cutscenes and even have subtitles. But why aren’t both possible in the opening cutscene? A minor nitpick is that there are some minor grammar errors in the game (“Click of the paintings” instead “Click on the paintings” in the second level)

There is this unique mechanic where you can find treasures to upgrade your units to dissolve them for DNA points to unlock special upgrades for your units. It’s a perfect balancing act since you need to decide if you are going to dissolve the treasures and get an upgrade or use them to improve your unit(s). If only that would be explained in some sort of tutorial, which the game somewhat lacks.

Just a bit more

giphyIf you read the previous section, it might look that I’m ripping this game a new one. That there are so many things missing or wrong with this game, that it’s not a great game to play. Well, then I think you got the wrong idea. I loved my time with the game and I found it a bit disappointing that some features I expect weren’t there.

Also, the price for this game is only 15€. So, it would be wrong of me to compare this game to big titles with way bigger budgets behind it. The thing is that I enjoy this game so much, that it frustrated me that the potential that this game has is unused.

Take for example the visual presentation. The artwork, unit design, level design… they all look amazing. You really feel like being in an abandoned cave where an old civilization used to live. The animations really make the world come alive. It’s so adorable that your workers dig into the ground to create a building and that it rises up like a sort of mole hole.

The audiovisual design is outstanding as well. This game has an orchestral soundtrack that reminds me of the reboot Tomb Raider games, Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, and other similar games. It sounds familiar on one hand but new and fresh on the other hand. It’s a blast to listen too. The sound effects only add to the great atmosphere. The audiovisual design is so well done that I can excuse that some things don’t have sound effects or voice lines like when you click on an option where you don’t have enough DNA points for or certain interactions in your inventory are silent.

This game is a blast to play but you have to take into account that there are some things that don’t really work or work in the way you expect them to work. I have given several examples in the previous section, but here is another one. Why does your cursor not change when you hover over a resource or why don’t your worker acknowledge that interaction is going to happen?

This is why I said earlier in the article that I feel quite mixed about the gameplay. I enjoy playing this game but the final touches are just not there in certain cases. Now, I’m not saying that this game is unpolished or anything since there is a lot of attention to detail in most mechanics but not in all of them.

I think that this game could use another major content update or update that just focusses on making the game a bit more accessible. I think if a tutorial is added, something to avoid the soft lock potential and the functions that miss sound effects or voice lines are added; that this game gets even better.

So, I can’t wait to finish the final 5 levels I still have left to play. Since I really enjoyed my time with the game. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sci-fi games, RTS games, and even to people who enjoy adventure games. This game is quite enjoyable to play and experience. It’s an enjoyable RTS experience that I won’t soon forget. Congrats to the small Finnish team of 6 people who put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this game since I have to say, the end result is something to be proud of and it shows a ton of potential for future games and/or more adventures in the world of The Hive.

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

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

2020040615462543.png

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

2020040617001574.png

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.

Game Review: Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC) ~ Trinity Awaits You.

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

This post is a part of the Tomb Raider – Writers Raid collaborative project. In this project, various bloggers came together to take a critical look on the Tomb Raider series. Mixing nostalgia and a critical look at every game in the main series. You can read more in the hub article here.

SotTR_HERO-1-heroWikipedia entrySteam Store page

I remember the day that the picture leaked of the guy working on a powerpoint presentation of Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the metro. I was so hyped for the 3rd Tomb Raider game. I quite enjoyed the reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise and I wanted to see how the trilogy ends. I pre-ordered the game as soon as I could. Of course, I pre-ordered the collector’s edition and I was able to play this game 48 hours before the official release. Now that I finished the game, it’s time to give my honest opinion on it. Is the game any good or should you skip it? Let’s find out. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Trinity awaits you

20180912191126_1If you are planning to play this game, I highly recommend that you play Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider before this game. The story in this game continues on the story of those two games. While you will be able to understand and follow the story in the game without any problems in this game, the impact of the story will be stronger if you played the first two games.

To avoid spoilers, I’ll keep some parts a bit vague in my plot description. So, in this game, Lara and Jonah are exploring Cozumel in Mexico for a piece of the artifact that Lara’s rival gang Trinity is after. It doesn’t take long before the duo finds Trinity and they discover something huge about Trinity. This leads Lara to a nearby temple where she finds a dagger that sets off a chain of events that might spell the end of the world but this might help Trinity to succeed with their plans. Now, will Lara be able to stop Trinity and save the world? Since Trinity awaits you in this game…

The story of this game is your typical adventure movie story. Personally, I enjoyed the story in this game quite a lot. The writing is pretty well done. I grew attached to the characters in this arc and it kept me engaged. While I was able to predict some plot points and twists from a mile away, I was entertained by it. The pacing of the plot is so good, I was less distracted by side quests than in the previous two titles.

The story takes you to various locations in Mexico and Peru. There is one section of the game that will put a huge smile on veteran Tomb Raider players, but I won’t spoil that one. While a lot of the game takes place in the jungle, the scenery never gets boring. I totally loved exploring the world after I had beaten the main story and I can’t wait for the additional content that they are going to release in the upcoming months.

Something I would love to talk about is that this game had two different epilogues. In this article, I want to focus on reviewing the game in its current form but if you want to know more, Kotaku has a great write-up with developer commentary.

The writing and pacing of this game are excellent, but something I really liked in this game was the voice acting. I really felt that the actors were giving it their all while creating this game. When Lara gets mad, she really sounds mad. Something I think is amazing is that the NPC’s can either speak English or speak in their native language. This setting in the options menu is such an amazing immersion feature. It really adds to the charm of the voice acting.

Now with the reboot plot wrapped up, I’m quite curious about where they are going to take Lara next. Which adventures will Lara have next? Will they create a new game when Lara is older or will they create a story that takes place right after this game? Only time will tell.

Take a jaw-dropping picture

sotr.jpgWhen I saw the minimum requirements of this game, I became worried. In order to play this game, you need to have an i3-3220 Intel processor or something similar to AMD. You also need 8GB RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660/GTX 1050 or AMD Radeon HD 7770 at the minimum. My computer has an i7-4820K, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660. So, my computer fits the requirements of the recommend system requirements besides my graphics card. I was so afraid that I would be bottlenecked due to my graphics card. I was afraid that I had to put everything at the lowest settings to even get a playable framerate out of the game.

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case.  I was able to play the game at medium visual settings at somewhere between 25FPS to 66FPS. The framerate was quite stable as well. While I was playing, I ran MSI Afterburner on my 2nd monitor to keep track of the temperatures of my GPU and the usage. Since that caused issues in Rise of the Tomb Raider for me. In this game, I only experienced three game crashes in that 48-hour pre-launch period but a quick restart of the game fixed the issue. And since the patch released on launch, I never had those crashes again.

25FPS might be too low in some people their opinion but I don’t mind it that much. 30FPS is still an acceptable frame rate for me and I don’t mind it that much, I understand that a lot of people prefer 60FPS, but I’m just glad that I have the game at a playable and stable frame rate.

I’m happy that my computer can run this game since this game takes you on an amazing journey. You come across gorgeous landscapes that are begging you to use the photography feature built in this game. This is even a small basic editor included. I only used the photography mode once, to test it out. If I ever replay this game, I have some spots that I totally want to use this feature on and create some amazing wallpapers.

While the visual presentation is amazing, I did experience some tearing issues and I saw some clipping. But, this happened so rarely and fixed themselves so fast, they weren’t a big issue. Most of the tearing issues were just for a few seconds here and there is a cutscene. I have to admit that updating my graphics card to the latest driver made me have even less tearing issues. So, if you are experiencing them too, check if your graphics card is up-to-date.

Visually, this game is jaw-dropping. While exploring the packed jungle, hidden cities, and various tombs; you get even more eye candy with the animations in this game. From Lara jumping down to make a stealth kill to two characters speaking to each other in a cutscene, the animations are extremely well done. One minor complaint I have is that some death scenes felt a bit reused from the previous two games, but some look even better than before.

Yet, there are a few things about the visuals I thought weren’t the best they could be. The first problem with the visuals is that sometimes when the game reloaded after I died, the visuals went to a lower setting. This happened to me 5 times out of nowhere. Yet, after a patch, I didn’t experience this issue so I guess that might be fixed.

A 2nd complaint I have with the visuals is that the liquids in the death scenes became see-through. It might be a nitpicky complaint, but I felt that it was rather awkward. It didn’t feel quite right. It would have looked a lot better if the camera zoomed out with Lara’s scream fading away as if she drowned.

Now, let’s talk about gameplay. Since the reboot, the gameplay of the Tomb Raider series changed quite a lot. There are more action sequences in between puzzle segments and the exploration of tombs. Lara has a few new abilities compared to the previous two games. Outside of the expanded moves with the grapple ax and the stealth mechanics, all these mechanics are underused.

For example, some enemies have heat goggles. These enemies appear so frequent, it’s a gimmick. Another example is the underwater creatures, like eels and phirans. These can provide for some unique swimming puzzles but they are rarely used or are quite easy to avoid. Also, there are some tripwires that can activate traps. But, these traps are always the same trap and the same way of disabling them. It’s sad to see these mechanics under used so much.

Something that really annoyed me is that when you used the explorer sense, Lara almost always gave the solution of the puzzle away immediately. She spells out what you have to move to where. Even this sense sometimes provided the solution to the puzzle. This made some puzzles in this game too easy. I preferred it when Lara didn’t give the solution right away. It was especially frustrating when she talked over dialogue. In one tomb, Lara and Jonah were exploring. While they were talking about the room they were in, I pressed the explorer sense button. While Lara and Jonah were having their chat, Lara spoils the solution of the puzzle. That way I didn’t hear what Lara and Jonah said. It would have been much more fun to solve the puzzles when Lara didn’t give away the solution away so quickly. It should work like those special mushrooms in the latest Mario games, that it appears when the player keeps failing to solve the puzzle or is stuck in the room for some time.

It’s a shame since the puzzles are very fun to solve. They are well crafted and I enjoyed solving them. Thankfully, the issue of Lara spoiling the solution doesn’t happen with the platform sections. These were amazing to play through. I can’t wait to see what the new challenge tombs will bring in the upcoming months. On the 14th of November, a new tomb will release. I can’t wait to explore it.

Anyways, when I changed the puzzle difficulty to hard, Lara didn’t do this. I wish I knew this earlier before I had beaten the game. Since I had chosen the “Rite of passage” difficulty. It would have solved one of my major gripes with this game. I did have to set it to the hard setting, and that took away a lot of things in the explorer sense as well… So, I’ll stick to normal and just not use explorer sense only if I’m stuck.

Something I really love in this game as well is that you have more than one indicator on the map and in the explorer sense. You have the yellow marker that guides you to the next story point, the green one for the side quest you are doing and the blue one for the marker you set in the map mode. This is so handy and helped me to keep track of certain things. Great feature!

Orchestral exploration

20180912191114_1This game has an orchestral soundtrack. The soundtrack has been composed by Brian D’Oliveira and he created something amazing. The soundtrack adds so much power to the cutscenes and the game.

I also added the soundtrack to my music library. It’s a great soundtrack for when I’m writing various articles or when I’m playing other games like Minecraft or Europa Universalis IV.

It was especially tense during the stealth sections. I’m the type of player who usually goes all out and doesn’t use a lot of stealth. In this game, I highly recommend that you are careful while you have enemy encounters. They can quite easily overwhelm you if you go out of hiding too quickly. Also, in this game, the traps like flaming bottles and smoke bombs are way more useful than in the previous games. They helped me quite a lot. The music is a great help in these combat sections since it’s your guide if there are still enemies around or if you have defeated them all.

Together with the great soundtrack, the sound effects and sound design of this game are extremely well done. I played this game with headphones. If you play this game, I highly recommend that you use a decent pair of headphones or speakers. The sound effects and the music add so much to the experience and the immersion, it’s essential in my opinion. It made my heart pound at certain moments and I felt so relieved when I was finally able to beat that section that gave me problems earlier.

The controls in the game are good. I do have one complaint and that is that I find the controls for the crafting system a bit awkward to use. I got used to it, but I preferred the crafting system in the previous game where you were able to map the crafting of (special) arrows or ammo to a single button. Now you need to use two for them. Then again, I see the benefits of the current system, so I think it’s a personal complaint.

I never had any major issues with the controls. Maybe once or twice that Lara didn’t grab a ledge, but these things happen in games all the time. The checkpoints in this game are frequent enough that you don’t lose a lot of progress. The game also has an autosave so you never have to worry that you lose progress.

Earlier, I talked about the extended mechanics or the grapple ax. A grapple ax is an essential tool in Lara’s arsenal in this game. She uses it as a sort of whip to swing across gaps, Indiana Jones style. She also uses is it for stealth killing, climbing almost vertical walls and using it as an anchor point when she needs to go down. There are certain moments when you hang on a wall right above the entrance of a tomb and Lara has to lower herself to either safe reach the ground or to swing back and forth to create enough momentum to jump to the platform that leads to the entrance of the tomb. Rappelling down was always a great joy to do.

Now, there is one mechanic that actually returns from a previous Tomb Raider game. In Tomb Raider Anniversary, there are certain sections while you use your grapple you run on walls. This mechanic returns in this game. It’s used in combination with the lowering down mechanic I described in the previous paragraph.

These mechanics were fun to use. Slowing going down and seeing the big temple appear in the distance were my favorite moments in this game. It really made me feel like I was exploring the area. Paired with the amazing visuals and soundtrack, I enjoyed myself quite a lot. Speaking about those visuals, sometimes your path blended in with the environment so well, it was fun to explore. Trying to find the path you had to take to find your way back from a tomb. Also, in some platforming sections, especially when you are escaping from a crumbling building, the visuals make it even better to play through. You have rubble falling just past you or poles you bending the right way for you to continue. The adrenaline in these sections was amazing for me.

Now, this game took me 20 hours or so to beat. On Howlongtobeat.com, there are people who have beaten the story in 13 hours. I think I might complete this game, so I have a few additional hours in this game. The difficulty of this game really depends on the abilities and outfits you use. The fewer abilities you unlock and if you don’t use the benefits of your outfits, the game gets a lot harder. But, I found this game not that difficult. There were a few moments that I had to redo, sometimes more than 3 or 4 times but each time I learned the patterns of the enemies or where I needed to go. The game provides some challenge but once you get the mechanics down, you breeze through this power fantasy.

Now, about the difficulty. There are a few different options. Something I really like is that you can set the difficulty for combat, exploration, and puzzle. So, if you find something too easy and you want more challenge, just change that in the gameplay section of the options menu. The only nitpick I have about the menu is that there should be a “confirm” button. Since it felt kind of strange that the changes happen right away to me. Then again, that might be just me.

Also, if you are quite nostalgic like me, there are outfits that even remodel Lara’s character mode to look like in the earlier Tomb Raider games. I think that I’m going to use those outfits to complete the game now that I have beaten it.

Personally, I enjoyed the combat in this game quite a lot. Outsmarting your enemies and silently killing them before they can group up on you to overpower you was enjoyable. I felt my heart pounding when I was finally able to beat that one section I had to do over and over again. These sections made me consider playing other more stealth focused games in the future.

A big plus in this game is the in-game store. In the two previous titles, ammo could become a bit too rare to find in the post-game. This is solved by merchants in the villages you visit. There you can buy gear and ammo. You can also sell your materials for coins. This is a great mechanic since you really need to think about what you can sell if you want to complete this game.

The final fight in this game really took me back to the old school Tomb Raider boss fights. I only wish that it was a bit more challenging. I was able to beat the final fight with only dying twice. This time it felt like a proper final fight and not a gauntlet of enemies. It’s the best final fight in this trilogy.

So, that was everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time for the conclusion of my review.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Good story, pacing and voice acting.

+ Amazing visual presentation.

+ In-game store.

+ Great soundtrack & sound design.

+ Great final boss.

+ Nostalgic outfits.

+ …

The bad:

-Some mechanics are underused.

-Sometimes some minor visual issues like tearing and clipping appear.

Final thoughts:

As a veteran Tomb Raider player, I wasn’t disappointed in this game. While I completely understand that this game isn’t for everybody, it did click with me. I enjoyed myself while playing this game and I think that this game turned out amazing. The biggest flaw of this game is that some fun mechanics go underused. Maybe these mechanics might be more used when I up the difficulty in my next playthrough.

I enjoyed playing through this game so much that I’m going to play through this game again for sure. The visuals are extremely well done, the animations, soundtrack, sound design… it all pulled me into this game. If you really enjoy playing adventure games like the 3D Indiana Jones games, Uncharted, Tomb Raider (2013), Rise of the Tomb Raider or games of that nature, you owe it to yourself to give this game a try.

In my opinion, this is one of the best Tomb Raider games I have played in recent years. It reminded me why I enjoy playing through this series so much. The adventure is just so much fun and it reminds me of watching Indiana Jones when I was younger.

I can’t recommend this game enough. If you can, buy the season pass. I know that this makes the game more expensive but the additional costumes and the additional challenge tombs that will be released in the upcoming months will be more than worth it.

Thank you, Square Enix, Eidos Montreal and all the other companies who helped develop this trilogy. I hope you continue creating adventures for Lara Croft. The quality of this game is amazing and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Thank you for the journey and I hope this won’t be the last stop. You thanked your fans in the credits, allow me to thank you and your team for this amazing experience! Keep on creating those tombs and we shall keep raiding if it’s this amazing of a game.

Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this 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. Also, be sure to check out the hub article where you can read more articles on the Tomb Raider series. More information is at the start of this article.

Score: 90/100

Review: Angels Of Death (Switch) ~ Halloween Adventure

Wikipedia entry

Today I want to talk about a game that’s perfect for Halloween night. Since I played and fell in love with the Corpse Party series, I have high expectations when it comes to playing RPG horror-themed games. So, what did I think of “Angels of Death”? Did it live up to the fun I had with Corpse Party or did it fall flat on its face? That’s what I want to talk about in this review. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below about the game and/or the content of this article.

“I saw a murder”

Fair warning for everybody who wants to play this game. This game is quite a story based and try to avoid reading too about the story to avoid spoiling the whole game. To avoid ruining the game for those who want to play it after reading this article, I kept the spoilers to a minimum and the screenshots of the early game.

That said, in this game, you take on the role of Rachael “Ray” Gartner. A 13-year old girl who claims to have seen a murder. She is taken to a hospital for counseling. However, she finds herself waking up in an unfamiliar basement. Now, she has to escape since she heard over a speaker that she is a sacrifice, whatever that might mean.

And that’s everything I’m going to say about the story. The story takes various twists and turns and it’s a wild ride. The writing and pacing are top-notch. Personally, I loved the writing in this game. The characters are memorable and quirky. I loved every single one of them.

This game contains a lot of dialogues. If you aren’t into those games, I would recommend that you skip this one. Since none of the dialogues are voice acted. But, after I had finished the first chapter of the game, I watched the first episode of the anime and I have to say, that those voices just played in my head while I was playing the game.

The writing made me laugh and sit on the edge of my seat. It’s a great story to play on Halloween night. It’s a game that takes the horror route without using too much gore. The only sad thing is that this game is only 8 hours long. The game doesn’t have any replay value or multiple endings, so I felt empty after those 8 hours. Empty for more.

This game touches upon a few themes that could be a trigger for some people. From murder, a whole range of cuss words to religion. In my opinion, the game never went into the offensive territory but if you are easily triggered by these subjects, keep an open mind if you are playing this game.

“Exploration of the basement”

At its core, Angels of Death is a puzzle game. If you have played Corpse Party or a game from the Zero Escape series, you will be right at home playing this game. The goal of each chapter is to escape the floor you are trapped in. In order to do that, you have to solve various puzzles while exploring the basement.

The game is quite linear, so there isn’t much room to explore the basement. I never got stuck in this game and I never needed a walkthrough. This game is quite easy to finish. It does provide some challenge but if you use the save system like I did, you won’t have any problems.

Don’t forget that this game doesn’t automatically save your game. You have to manually save the game. You can do that whenever you want, expect from a few special moments like chase sequences. When these moments happen, the game gives you the chance to save right before they happen. You have 99 save slots, so you won’t run out of slots. And yes, you can save over a slot.

This game has 4 chapters, so 4 puzzles for you to complete. To be honest, you don’t need to play this game for the puzzles. Some of them were too easy and I didn’t even notice that I was solving a puzzle. The flow of this game is a bit too streamlined. Yet, it didn’t pull away from the experience. Besides exploration, there are a few sections that provide some variation in the gameplay. There is even a section where you have to shoot something to clear out a room. These sections were too short.

This is the big issue I had with the game. The game is a lot of fun to play but it’s too easy. The story is amazing and has the right length and pace so more gameplay would have made the story unnecessarily longer. So, I’m a bit mixed on this.

During the various sections, the controls never failed me. I mostly played this game in handheld mode or in docked mode. The controls are easy to understand and quite quick to learn. I never had any issues with them.

In terms of the UI of this game, I think it’s quite good apart from one minor thing. In the “load” menu of the game, I wish there was a bit more info on the save slot. For example, in which room I saved. Oh well, that’s a nitpick.

“Zack’s laugh”

The visual presentation of this game is great. It’s quite clear that this game uses a version of RPG Maker for this game and it uses it quite well. Each map is quite detailed. The visual presentation really added to the atmosphere of the game. The animations as well, I really loved the animations during story segments. They made some characters come to life.

Some parts of this game are hand-drawn like the character models. This adds a lot of charm to the game and they reminded me of the anime I still have to finish. My favorite character in this whole game is Ray. I can’t explain why, since that would mean I would spoil the whole game.

Something that adds quite a lot to the game is the soundtrack and the sound effects. The soundtrack of this game consists mostly of techno and orchestra tracks. I’m so glad that I also bought the Steam version so I could add the soundtrack to my library. It’s a joy to listen too.

The sound effects are amazing as well, to such a degree that a lot of people miss the sound effect of Zach’s laugh in some tracks. I have to agree since I always heard his laugh on the track while it wasn’t there. The story had such an impact on me.

My only complaint is that the music tracks are a bit too short. Some are only one minute long and I like them quite a lot. I wish they created an extended version that wasn’t looping the song three times over. Oh well, this again might be a nitpick.

This game has the perfect price in my opinion. You can buy this game for 15€ in the Nintendo EShop. So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time we wrap this article up and go for the conclusion of this review.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • Too short & easy.

The good:

  • Amazing story.
  • Amazing soundtrack.
  • Amazing art & animations.

Final thoughts:

If you enjoy RPG-maker games that give you more of an adventure like Corpse Party or the Crooked Man, this game is for you. If you want to play a short and fun game during Halloween night, I can’t recommend this game enough.

Personally, I loved the writing in this game so much that I want to replay through the whole game while I even know how the game is going to end. I understand that this game isn’t for everybody. With the large amounts of dialogue, the easy puzzles and the short nature of this game, some people can get turned off this game. But, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the game.

I was glad that I had this game on the car trip during my family weekend. It was such a blast to play. My only regret is that I didn’t keep this for Halloween night. If you don’t own a Nintendo Switch, this game is also on Steam. So, go grab it and enjoy it!

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, take care and have a great (spooky) rest of your day.

Score: 100/100

Review: Dragon Quest Builders (Switch) ~ A Building Quest

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Wikipedia entry

How would I explain Dragon Quest Builders? Should I say that it’s a Minecraft clone with quests? A more interactive version of Minecraft Story Mode? Or should I say it’s a Dragon Quest game with elements of Minecraft? In any case, I mentioned this game in my “10 games I’m looking forward to playing in 2018.” article last year. Now that I have finally beaten this game, I want to talk about it, give my honest opinion on it. I played this game on the Nintendo Switch and let’s take a look at why I looked forward to Dragon Quest Builders and if it held up my expectations. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion and/or thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article.

 A Building Quest

DragonQuestBuilders2

The story of this game takes place after Dragon Quest I. Yes, the NES original game. The world of Alefgard. But this time, the hero of Dragon Quest I actually accepted the evil DragonLord’s suggestion of ruling beside him. So, the world falls into chaos and darkness.

You are woken up by the Goddess to help rebuild the land and only the land. The Goddess reminds you frequently that it’s not your job to defeat the evil Dragonlord. Now, will this legendary builder be able to rebuild this land and fill his role or will this builder want to do more?

The writing in this game is amazing. It’s so full of character, charm, and humor. There is a lot of text in this game and there is no voice acting. This could be a problem for some, but not to me. Something I really love is that each world you help to rebuild has a different theme and different style of writing. The story itself might be generic and you might be able to predict the ending, but the presentation and how it’s delivered excuses that negative in my eyes. I got attached to some characters and when I had to move to the next world to save, I almost didn’t want too. I didn’t want to leave the people I just got to know and build this city with.

The more you read the story, the more the world gets fleshed out. You learn a lot of details about every character you meet. Your goal is to rebuild the land, and you do this with the Banner of Hope. You place this banner at the ruins of a city destroyed by the evil Dragonlord. The light that’s produced by the Banner of Hope attracts people and they will arrive to help you out in rebuilding the city.

Now, there is one catch. You are called the Legendary Builder for a reason. One of the reasons is that you aren’t the Legendary Hero that is going to take down the evil Dragonlord. The other reason is that you are the only one who remembers to create things.

So, when you are exploring the world and find new objects, you sometimes get a recipe or remember how to build a certain object. Sometimes you get blueprints for your town residents to build a certain room for them. This is one of the building quests you have to do to progress in the story.

There is some sort of replay value in this game as well. As a test, I replayed the first chapter twice from start to finish. While I finished the world quicker the second time, my city looked completely different. So, I had a different fun experience.

Where to next?

DragonQuestBuilders3

Now, to progress into the story, you take on quests of your villagers. There are two types of symbols. One has a quest and the other is a symbol that enemies are going to attack your city. I’ll talk more about the combat later.

So, when you take on a quest, you have to rescue somebody out from the wilderness, defeat some monsters or create a certain room or object. If you have to go outside the city, a quest marker will be placed on your map.

The map system is something I truly liked in this game. You never have an overall map of the world you are in. You can only have an overhead view of your area. There is always a white flag and an arrow showing you the direction of your town. While each area you can visit is big, I never got lost.

Yes, each area. When you beat certain waves of monsters attacking your city, you might be rewarded with a portal. This portal brings you to another area. Something I really like is that the world is interconnected. If you go to the edge of the world, you might be able to see the next area. There is an invisible barrier, a strange force, that’s stopping you to build a bridge over the ocean to sequence break. (For those who don’t know what that sequence breaking means, it means doing things out of order. Breaking the intended sequence of events.)

If you visit an area where your town isn’t located, you are able to pick up a Navi-globe. When you place this object, you get another marker on your map. So, what I did is placing this marker at the portal back home or at the location of a sidequest. In total, each world has three globes you can move to whatever location you want.

So, you can explore the large worlds at your leisure. Trying to find all the side quests and collecting as many resources as you can. I loved running around in the world since the visual presentation of this game is amazing. My favorite world was the final 4th one. I loved the conclusion of this game.

Visually, this game looks and feels like a real Dragon Quest game. While I was playing this game I often had memories of playing Dragon Quest on my PS2, DS, and 3DS in the past. There are a lot of easter eggs in this game to the earlier games. The animations of this game added quite a lot of the visual presentation. I didn’t find anything that felt out of place. The only “creepy” thing is that when you are talking to somebody, other characters could move. And villagers almost always turn their heads in your direction when they are close to you.

I felt at home while playing this game. This might have to do with my love of Minecraft, but also with it playing on my nostalgic love for gaming. The best example is the soundtrack. The soundtrack of this game has no real original tunes in it. The soundtrack of this game is completely orchestrated and it is all tunes you heard before in the Dragon Quest universe. It’s like a “best of” album. Oh, and there is a music easter egg in the game for you will enjoy if you like retro gaming or the old school Dragon Quest games.

While this game has no voice acting, the sound effects in this game are good. Most of them I have heard in previous Dragon Quest games, so nothing new there. but they work pretty well. The only voice acting I have heard in this game is the sleeping, damage, and death sounds of the main characters. Which are pretty great.

Now, exploring the worlds are pretty fun. The controls of the game are a joy to work when you get used to them. And I got used to them pretty quickly. The only annoying thing is that the camera can be annoying sometimes.

I had to struggle with the camera here and there. Especially when you are in small rooms or areas. I had such infrequent issues with it, it didn’t bother me too much. But, I heard from other reviewers that it caused problems when you wanted to create a very detailed city. Since I’m not really a builder but more of a resource gathering and explorer, I didn’t experience that much camera-issues.

Speaking about camera-issues, I think I should mention this. This game runs on a quite stable 30FPS on the Switch. While I didn’t have an issue with that, I think this might be an issue for some people. So I wanted to mention it.

Just press the button

DragonQuestBuilders1

My biggest issue with this game is elsewhere. I had a problem with the combat. The combat in this game is pretty stale. You are only able to create short-ranged weapons. The situations where you can create a long-range weapon are pretty rare. The biggest issue with the combat is just what the subtitle said, it’s just pressing the button. There aren’t a lot of enemies that require a different strategy than to run at them, hit the attack button until they are dead. Sometimes you had to back up and use a healing item, but really, there isn’t any more strategy than that.

It gets even worse when your villagers are helping you in fighting enemies. I had times where I wasn’t able to see my own character. Thankfully, you are able to create your own character and playing around with the colors to make it stand out more helps a lot.

Thankfully, combat isn’t the main focus in this game. There was a mission in the 2nd world that got pretty difficult but it really helped me to understand the flow of the combat in this game. And after trying that wave 5 times, combat just clicked for me. I got the flow of combat and I never got any major issues with the enemies in this game.

That’s why I haven’t seen the game over screen too much. When you die during exploring the world, you lose a part of your inventory. Just like in Minecraft, your items drop at the location you died. Unlike Minecraft, items never despawn.

If you die during a combat mission where you are defending your city, you can restart the fight or go back to a save. Speaking about saves, you can only save using the Banner of Hope. You have five save slots per world. I highly recommend that you save often since this game doesn’t autosave.

Whenever I saw the symbol that enemies were going to attack my city, I saved. Sometimes after a couple of quests, I saved. Now, here is a fair warning for the gamers who like to build and decorate your city who want to play this game, use the save system to your advantage. Since some enemies can destroy buildings. I admit to restarting some battles because too much of my city was destroyed. Thankfully, you don’t have to go look for new materials, since everything dropped on the floor, but I wanted to avoid the damage. So, it’s a good idea to defeat those enemies first. When you learn the patterns of the enemies, you won’t have such a hard time.

Speaking about that, this game isn’t too difficult. If you keep an eye out on your supplies during combat and learn what makes each enemy tick, you won’t have too many problems with this game. The game does provide you with various challenges but I rarely had trouble. A great tip I can give you is, that whenever you are using a healing item; stay out of range of your enemy. Since an attack cancels out the healing or when you are using the chimera wing: the teleporting. Oh, and these wings also teleport the people who just are traveling with you.

If you always craft the strongest armor and weapons, you won’t have any issues. The weapons I loved the most in this game are the hammers. It didn’t only help in building, but it was really strong. So, if you want to make this game more difficult on yourself, just explore with weaker gear.

In addition to that, each world has a different challenge. In one world you won’t find a lot of food and in another, the enemies provide a big threat. The learning curve of this game is perfect. You learn a different skill in each world and everything comes together in the final world. The final boss tests everything you learned until that point.

Speaking about the boss battles, they are pretty good. There wasn’t any boss battle I didn’t enjoy or that I wanted to see changed. The weakest is the 2nd boss since I felt it didn’t have enough connection with the theme of that world.

One feature I really like in this game is the Big Colossal Coffer. This chest works like an ender chest in Minecraft. Sort-of. When you place it down, your inventory space gets a lot bigger. but here is the amazing thing. You can take out and put things where ever you are in the world. I have to admit that this mechanic helped me a lot.

Now, I have mostly been praising this game. Is there anything negative I can say about this game? The game does a lot well, each world has 5 additional side quests. These side quests are only revealed when you finish the world.

So, what is something negative I can say about this game? I could nitpick about the crafting system could use a feature where you choose how many times you want to create an item. It’s one or all. Yet, I think the crafting system has an amazing feature where you don’t need to have the items in your inventory to craft the items. If they are in a chest or your coffer in your city, you can use it to craft items. So, you don’t have to look through every chest when you want to craft something.

Another thing is that I was unable to create a certain block in the final world to finish the roof of my castle. While I was researching if there was a recipe for this block, I learned it was one of the blocks that your villagers could create. Mine didn’t, sadly enough. Yet, the fact that villagers create items for you is extremely helpful. Especially when you build them a place to create food. Something that would be lovely is that you were able to assign tasks to your villagers, so who does what… but then again, you don’t lose any items while they craft for you.

Earlier I said that this game has only 4 worlds. You might say that the game is short. And yes, the story of this game was over too quickly in my opinion. Yet, when you do all the side quests and you want to completely explore the world, you can spend a lot more time with this game. And let’s not forget the free-roaming mode where you can even share your creations with other players. I haven’t finished the free-roaming world, so there is still some fun to be had with this game for me.

Something that annoyed me was that when you were building blueprints, you had to start with open space and use only the blocks that the blueprint has. So, if you use wood instead of dirt for the wall, the quest won’t register as finished. Yet, nothing stops you from changing the blocks after you have finished the quest.

Another irritation with this game is that very occasionally, I was unable to have my room recognize as a room. Especially when I dug into the walls to try and escape enemies and use the sleeping mechanic to fully heal. Yet, waiting out the night to heal wasn’t too bad when this happened. Besides, the times that this happened I can count on one hand. So, it’s not that big of an issue.

Something that I sometimes wished is that I was able to farm certain blocks. Especially flowers or ivy. And the only reason for that is that I was too lazy to explore the world if check if I have forgotten to pick it up.

The only thing that I really disliked, and didn’t have a positive thing to balance it, was that some resources are extremely limited or hard to get. But then again, I only had an issue with this in the last world just before the final battle. So, yeah.

This game really hooked me. The sequel to this game looks extremely promising. There are a lot of features added that would be amazing in the original. So, I’m quite excited about that.

The only big negative I can about this game is that it isn’t released on PC or other platforms. I think that this game can get some popular when it’s released on PC and other platforms. Then again, I’m glad that this game got ported to the Switch, since trying to find a PS Vita nowadays isn’t the easiest of tasks.

Phew, that was a lot. Truth to be told, I haven’t talked about everything but I wanted to leave some things as a surprise for you guys. But I think it’s time for a conclusion in this article.

Conclusion

Negatives:

-The camera can be pretty annoying sometimes.

-The combat can be quite bland.

Positives:

+ Great writing and story.

+ Amazing controls.

+ Great visuals.

+ Exploring various vast worlds.

+ ….

Final thoughts:

I’m so glad that I played this game. If you have a Nintendo Switch or PS Vita, you owe it yourself to pick up this game and play it. Even if you aren’t a fan of Dragon Quest/RPG’s or Minecraft, this game is a lot of fun. If you truly dislike both, then I would recommend you to skip this game.

I had high expectations and hopes when I started to play this game and this game didn’t disappoint at all. There were some things that I didn’t like, but it rarely hindered the enjoyment I had with this game.

Each time I got defeated by some monsters or a boss, I got another attempt in trying to defeat them. Not only that, I felt I was drawn into the world and enjoyed the game from the start to the end.

After finishing this game, I really want to play the sequel. Until then, I think I’ll keep playing this game since every time I boot it up, I find something new to do or to improve in one of my 5 towns. Including my free-roaming one.

I can’t recommend this game enough. I’m currently trying to finish all the side quests I haven’t done yet and experimenting with Free Roaming. I just hope I won’t run into trouble with that when the Switch Online service launches in a month.

I’m curious to hear your stories about this game in the comment section down below. And if you pick up this game, feel free to tweet me a picture of your cities or your adventures to my Twitter: @NekoJonez.

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, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 100/100

First Impression: Across The Moment (PC) ~ Let’s Go On A Journey!

Across the moment logo

Official Steam Page

Today, I want to take you on a journey. The journey that the game “Across The Moment” tell you. Currently, the first episode is out. There will be 4 episodes in total. The three other episodes will come as an update in the future. To write this review, I got a review code from the developer. The developer also gave me full control in what I could write in my article. So, this is completely my opinion. In any case, enough introduction. Time to get reviewing this moment. Well, “Across The Moment”. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Note: While I have almost finished the first episode, I’m not going to make this a review since not all episodes are out.

Artstyle tells it all

Across The Moment (2)When you look at the promotional screenshots of this game, one thing is quite clear. This game doesn’t look like your run of the mill adventure game. And it is, this game is trying to tell a grim story about somebody falling into a depression and doing something. I won’t talk about it since it would spoil the game a bit in my opinion. But believe me, this game talks about some heavy subject matter. It also has some social commentary that really made me think about how our lives currently work.

The story gets more power from the voice acting. While the voice acting didn’t click with me at first, after the story started to get more and more clear, I started to understand and appreciate the voice acting and the direction it got.  The only thing I shall say is, imagine it’s somebody telling his life story about he fell into a depression and how defeated he felt. It really comes through in the pacing and voice acting.

Apart from the dialogue, the story is also told by the journal. Whenever something happens, it gets written down in the journal. From story bits to observations of the world you are in. I really like how this game is written. It clearly shows a passion for the story that the creator wants to tell with his game.

Everything is documented from the game, so when you take a break from the game for a while or when you need a refresher on what happened in a certain place or world, you can look it up in the journal. It’s an extremely handy tool.

Thanks to the dark artstyle with bright colors, the story gets even more meaning. The only issue I have with the art style is that sometimes the game is a bit too dark and you barely see where a wall is.

Visually, the game succeeds in setting the required atmosphere. I really liked the world building and the story is told through symbolism. The animations are great too. The use of color really helps to guide the player to where to go next. If I may change one thing in terms of visuals is that more items you can pick up like the screwdriver or the belt are in a different color, even a different shade of grey. Since it’s not always clear if there is an important item you missed or not.

Let’s Go On A Journey

Across The Moment (3)The first episode takes about 1 and half hours to complete if you really know what you are doing. If the other chapters are this long, I think you have a 12-hour game on your hands. But, let’s keep our focus on the current released episode.

This game is a 3D adventure game. It’s more of a walking simulator with a lot of puzzles and exploration. So, basically, it isn’t a walking simulator at all. In this game, you have to solve puzzles to be able to open doors and progress to the next area. Here is where some issues are with the game. My biggest complaint is the inventory. In my honest opinion, the inventory system is decent, apart from one thing. The system that is used to combine items is just annoying to use. Perhaps it’s a limitation of the Unreal 4 Engine being used, but it’s annoying to use. You must click on the ying-yang symbol, drag one item in the left box and the other item in the right box and click on the misaligned “yes” to try and combine them. You don’t even get any feedback if you can’t combine the items. It makes controlling the game annoying.

Which is a shame, since the controls for this game work fine for the most part. I wish that the controls were rebindable. Since, just like various other indie titles, they don’t know that “AZERTY” exists and now I must put my fingers weird again.

Just for you QWERTY-users, a reference. To move forward, I must use the Z key. And to move backward, the Q-key. The S & D-keys do their job fine. Anyways, let’s get back to reviewing this game.

There are two other things I want to point out about the controls. One is there is something odd you can do while you open your inventory. You can still duck, stand up and jump. Also, when you hold any of the movement keys, you hear the walking sound effect.

The second thing I want to talk about in terms on the controls is the jump. Besides having a great jump arc, the jumping is stiff in my opinion. I noticed that when you jump first and then press the move forward key, you don’t reach as far as you jump after you have moved forward a bit.

The jumping mechanic needs some polishing up. I found it frustrating and unreliable to use, especially in the platforming segments of the game. There was one segment in the game that took way too long to make. It would be great too if there were some checkpoints between the jumping segments. There is nothing more frustrating than being almost at the end of a jumping segment and falling all the way down for just one minor mistake.

Symbols

Across The Moment (1)In terms of the music, the soundtrack is good. The style of the soundtrack isn’t 100% my thing, but I love how it adds to the atmosphere of the game. The sound design is decent. While I wish there were a bit more sound effects for when you jump or when you land, I think the sound design is like I said: decent.

The difficulty in this game really depends if you can see the solution or not. Sometimes, the solution isn’t that clear and you are overlooking one thing. Really experiment with your environment and your inventory if you are stuck. Try the “everything on anything and combine everything with everything” tactic if you are stuck.

This game is also available in Chinese and Russian. It’s still a mystery to me why this option isn’t in the options menu but in the main menu. I think it would be more helpful if you move this option in the options menu, to be honest.

I do have to say, this game is only 3€ on Steam. I think that you get more value for your money when you buy this game. If you are interested in this game, I think you should buy this game.

There are also Steam Achievements and trading cards for people who are interested in that. There are 4 card drops for 6 cards to create a badge. Good luck.

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I can’t wait to see the second episode of this game since I really want to know where the story goes next. Thank you so much to the developer for giving me a key to try out this game. I really enjoyed my time with this game. I hope you also enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

First Impression: Ever Oasis (3DS) ~ Sunny Desert Adventure

Ever Oasis.pngOfficial website

So, Nintendo released a new IP. It’s called Ever Oasis. I honestly pre-ordered it and currently, I’m over half way with this game. In this article, I’ll tell you if this game is worth to be bought and be in your collection. I pre-ordered this game since I got very interested when I saw it in the E3 2016 and E3 2017. But enough introduction, is this game a good or a bad purchase?  As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Sandy Dunes

Ever-Oasis-Preview-Shot-(2)

In this game, you play as an Oasis Chief. The main character has no real name since you can decide it for yourself at the start.

When I started this game, I was disappointed by one thing from the start. This game has no voice acting nor any sounds that the characters make while they speak. This is a true shame since a bit of the charm of this game is lost because of it.

Anyways, the story itself. You start out in the oasis of your brother. You learn some basic things about what an oasis is. The oasis is a very calm and peaceful place. But, that all changed when the fire nation— I mean Chaos attacked. This “Chaos” turns innocent creatures into nasty monsters and expand the desert. Your brother transports you to safety while he deals with trying to his oasis. You end up at the last Water Spirit and you start your own oasis together. Your main mission is to try to defeat Chaos before it does any more harm to the world.

The writing in this game is really enjoyable. Due to the lack of voice acting, I wasn’t too immersed into the story. Well, there are some sound effects when the characters talk but it isn’t enough to give character to the characters. It just didn’t click enough with me.

Also, during most of the game, the story plays it a bit too safe. I wish a bit more things happened instead of the repetitive nature of the story. At first, I had trouble explaining why the story wasn’t clicking with me. The writing was enjoyable, so that couldn’t be it. Then, I suddenly realized it. There are two big issues with the story.

There is a serious lack of character development. You barely get to know the people of your oasis. There is no real struggle that can happen in your oasis. No shop keepers that can get jealous of other shop keepers or arguments you have to fix. When you finish a quest for somebody, they rarely to never ask you something again. This makes characters somewhat forgettable and that’s a shame.

The second problem with the story is the pacing.  I’ll expand on this a bit later, but due to the pacing, the story always continues forward in a straight line. Like I mentioned in the previous part, there is no character development. Each time you solve somebody’s problems, a new character gets introduced.

Too short?

Ever-Oasis-Preview-Shot-(6)

Due to the pacing, you got through this game at a pretty fast pace. This gives me the impression that this game is rather short. But it isn’t too short. An average playthrough of this game can last you 30 to 40 hours to complete the game.

The pacing could have been better if there was more downtime between the main story elements. Since then, I could explore more of this game at my own pace. But, that main story arrow is always grabbing my attention.

Something I really like about this game is that this game looks amazing. The animations of the game look amazing as well. The visual presentation of this game is just great. You really feel you are in some oasis-type area with a lot of Egyptian-looking areas and caves to explore.

Also, the map of this game is rather big. Thankfully, you have some quick travel points that you can use to quickly travel to some place if you need to be somewhere for a quest and you don’t want to go the long way.

When you play this game, you will quickly realize that this game took inspiration from the old-school Zelda dungeons to make its own dungeons. When you are a big Zelda fan, you will feel right at home in these dungeons. The only big difference is that you have to make use of each character their special abilities if you want to find each secret chest.

Yet, the exploration could have been improved by two things. The first thing is a sort of ‘note system’. Like the beacons in The Legend Of Zelda Breath of the Wild. Like, I want to explore this part of the cave later with another character. Thankfully, there is the Aqua Gate mechanic. This warps you and your two allies to the oasis so you can switch characters easily and warp back to the spot you warped from. So, this isn’t too big of an issue, but it would be a lovely feature.

But the second thing that could improve the exploration is to get rid of the only 2 allies limit. You can only bring 2 allies on your journey at once. But, the caves and areas you explore have sometimes more than three things that can only be activated by special abilities at once. So, I have to use the Aqua Gate too much to finish a dungeon.

Hiya!

Ever-Oasis-Preview-Shot-(4)

This game allows you to play every ally you have during your exploration. By simply tapping down on the D-pad, you can take control of the other character.

The controls itself are excellent. I rarely had problems controlling my character nor would I change anything.

The difficulty of this game isn’t too brutal. If you know what you are doing and how each character fights, you beat each enemy you come across. But, use your healing items wisely. Since they are a bit too grindy to craft and they are pretty rare to come across in the wild.

There is a mechanic that makes a fainted/dead character more interesting. As soon as a character runs out of energy, it gets healed back up automatically. But, you can speed up this process by spamming the “A” button near the corpse. This is dangerous to do however since you leave yourself open for enemy attacks. Something I truly like in this game is that it isn’t an automatic game over when the main character dies. You automatically switch over to another character.

One of the most interesting features of this game is how much health you have and how a character gets stronger. Let’s first talk about health. Each character has his or her own base health. But, you get some additional health depending on how well you clean up your oasis and how stocked you keep the shops in your oasis. The better you upkeep your oasis, the more additional health your characters get.

Let’s talk about how characters level up or better said, get stronger now. You only get experience points when you return to the oasis. This makes grinding a bit more annoying since you don’t know when to stop. But, this makes it more interesting since you don’t know when you need to stop.

Lastly, I want to talk about the soundtrack of this game. I really enjoy listing to it. I even consider adding it to my soundtrack playlist. It fits the theme perfectly. It adds so much additional character to the game.

In conclusion, at this moment in time, I think that this game is worth a playthrough if you like adventure games like the Zelda series. But, this game isn’t perfect. It’s sad to see that there is so much potential with this game. Maintaining the oasis feels more like a side part of the game than an actual part of the game. I honestly think that I expected more from this game and also I expected more focus on the oasis than on the exploration.

I do have to beat this game before I can form a final opinion on this game. There are two save slots so I can restart this game easily when I want to mess around a bit in this game.

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

First Impression: The Legend Of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild (Wii U) ~ Hyping Hype

Official websiteBreathoftheWildFinalCover.jpg

Hype, hype and even more hype. That was the internet right before this game dropped onto store shelves. While many reviewers already finished the game, I’m only 10 hours into the game. But, I have played enough to talk about this game. While this game was in development, I tried to read as little press material as I can. To avoid spoiling myself. But I couldn’t avoid it, every social media I went to was full of the latest rumors and articles about this game. In any case, I picked up this game right after the launch weekend. During the launch weekend, I was out of town. For those who missed it, why I’m not playing this on the Nintendo Switch. Well, that’s because budget reasons and I’m waiting to buy the Switch until more games have been released on it. At the moment of writing this article, there are too few games being released on the Switch that I actually want to play. And because I already own a Wii U and the game has been released on the Wii U, why not.  Also, this article will be spoiler-free. Since, honestly, I haven’t finished the game myself. So, yeah. No worries about that. So, enough rambling… two weeks after the release of the game, it’s time to talk about my first impressions of this game. And as usual, feel free to leave your opinion on the game and/or the article in the comment section down below.

Stop that hype train?

 

When this game was announced, the hype train was real. Everybody and their dog were hyped for this game. An open world Zelda game that took inspiration from games like FallOut and Skyrim, what’s not to love. Well, To be really honest, I wasn’t hyped. I honestly was disappointed.  At first, I was afraid that Nintendo was making a Skyrim-clone in a Zelda coat of paint.

Maybe I’m unable to let go of the past, the at first, this game didn’t feel like a true Zelda game. In my eyes, a typical Zelda game was like the old-school Tomb Raider games. A linear adventure game with a big central world that you could explore. But after a few hours of playing this game, something started to click in me.

If you are skeptical of this game and you are afraid it changes way too much from the Zelda-formula; don’t worry too much. Since this game changes a lot of things but some changes are for the better. Something I truly love from this game is how you can do dungeons and quests out of order.

But, something that was truly lacking, a more alive overworld. Everything has been made more interesting in this game. But, I’ll talk more about that later in the article. Let’s take a quick look at the story first.

I was pleasantly surprised how this game is able to tell an interesting Zelda story. Especially since you can explore wherever and however you want. The story of this game has all your typical Zelda lore. The narrative is present wherever you go. You decide the pace of the story. When you want more story, you do the main quests. When you want to take a break from the story, you do side quests or explore.

Something I was both hyped and let down by is the voice acting. While the voice acting is very well done, I’m let down that it’s underused. It feels like every voice actor only had one or two sheets of papers with lines, and that was it. And so far I have seen, it’s all a monolog talking to Link. What a missed opportunity there. But, maybe I haven’t advanced far enough into the main story yet, but so far, I find that the voice acting is underused. But when it’s used, it’s amazing.

Run around

In the past, I stopped playing games like Skyrim because I was too overwhelmed by the skill and tech trees. Where was way too much to do in that game. But, in this game, you get a sort of tutorial in the first area. You get your first taste of the shrines, the world, the story, the gameplay and the controls. Right after you have beaten the first four shrines, you get the paraglider. And then, you can go out into the world and explore your heart’s content.

So, in this game, you play as Link. And in this title, he is equipped with a lot more abilities than before. You don’t have to wait to unlock the spin attack or something amongst those lines, Link can do them all from the word GO.

Honestly, I was able to learn the controls quite quickly in this game. The more advanced tricks were learned naturally or with a quick tutorial. The controls of this game are quite responsive and I rarely have trouble with them. Apart from some gyroscope puzzles in some shrines, I don’t have any issues with them. The only thing I always confuse are the buttons for your inventory and your map. I can’t count on one hand anymore how many times I have opened my map in the middle of a battle when I only wanted to change my weapon.

That reminds me, the combat in this game is almost perfect in my eyes. Apart from some weapons doing way too much damage, it’s quite alright. Something that frustrates be beyond believe as well is that some weapons do so much damage and when you pick them up, they are weaker then your current weapon. Annoying spears, ugh.

Time for nitpicking

 In general, I think this game is pretty great. While it’s not 100% Zelda in my eyes, it’s growing more and more in my heart every hour I spend on it. I start to notice the attention to detail the developers put into this game. To create a living and breathing world that every Zelda fan would feel home in.

Something that also helps are the gorgeous visuals and the amazing soundtrack. Seriously, the presentation of this game is perfect. But, it does come with a price. The frame rate isn’t always stable. In some cases, the game drops under 30fps. And one time, I almost had a game crash. While the game always quickly recovers itself, it’s a letdown. Maybe with patches in the future, this improves.

Oh, that reminds me. Something I wish is also improved in a patch is the loading times when you enter and exit a shrine. The loading time isn’t that long, but it breaks the immersion. If those loading times could be improved, I would be so thankful. Something like an unskippable animation like in the older 3D Zelda games would do just fine.

Speaking about loading times, I wish you had an option to have to press a button when you want to re-enter the game. I had more than once, that I was reading the tips and the game loaded and I was thrown right into the game. I wasn’t done reading those tips just yet.

While I have a lot more to say about this game, I think I’ll leave those things for the review when I have finished the game. But in conclusion, give this game a chance. Sure, this game has flaws and changes a lot of the traditional Zelda formula, but it presents the original Zelda formula with a lot of improvements. Veteran Zelda players will feel right at home and enjoy themselves with the setting and the story. Everything feels so alive and much more realistic. I recommend this game already, but I’m curious if the game holds up when I have beaten it. Like I told earlier, at first, I wasn’t a big fan of the concept of this game. But, it’s winning me over. The charm of this game, it’s something I didn’t know I was missing from my Zelda gaming life.

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

Game Quicky: Sphetory (Android) ~ Ball Thrown

Sphetory_1024x500_4pda.pngDownload link from Google Play Store

This week, I had a cold during a heatwave. So, I didn’t play a lot of games this week. Yet, one Android game caught my eye. I played it several times. I found it strange since I rarely play Android games. The only time I play Android games is when I have to wait for the train or something along those lines. I haven’t gotten too far into the game but I still think it’s worth talking about it. If you are interested in this game, I personally recommend a tablet or a smartphone with a big screen. Since you will need it. In any case, enough rambling! As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

The bad

Sphetory_2.png

So, these are the reasons why you shouldn’t play this game:

The soundtrack is a bit lacking. I have only heard one song after three levels. While the song really helps to set the mood and atmosphere, I wish it had one more song to change it up here and there.

When I was in the options menu, I wasn’t able to adjust the sensitivity. It stayed at 4. Speaking of the option menu, you are unable to adjust the options when you aren’t in-game. You can change the language in the main menu, but not in the option menu.

Looking at the “Select Level” option, you will find out that this game is rather short. Honestly, I wish it had a bit more content. Since the potential is there.

The good

Sphetory_3.png

This game is a puzzle platformer. In the first level, you get a ball you can throw. It bounces around when it hits a wall. In the first level, this is used to hit switches so you can progress.

In the second level, a mechanic is introduced. When you throw the ball, you can press “B” at any time. Then you will move on the traveled path of the ball. As soon as you press B, the ball will stop traveling. So, you will have to time your throws so, you don’t press B when the ball left the platform. Since then, you fall to your doom.

Something that’s even more interesting is that the path stays. So, for example, you throw the ball in a straight line. When you press the B button after you landed, you don’t have to throw the ball again, since when you press the B button again, you travel on exactly the same path.

The punishment of failure is somewhere in between. When you fail a jump, you are sent back to the start of the puzzle. While I wish I wasn’t set back that far in certain sections, I wasn’t set back to the start of a level.

Also, in this game, you can slow down time. This is very handy to move over certain moving platforms.

I was able to quickly get used to the controls. When you press on the left-hand side of the screen, you move your character. When you press on the right-hand side of the screen, you move the camera. The A button throws the ball, the B button travels on the ball’s path, the clock button slows down time and the pause button… well take a wild guess.

Visually, this game looks amazing. I love the atmosphere in this game. It feels empty yet safe. It feels cold yet colorful and warm. And for those who are interested, I rarely experienced any lag or major slowdown in this game.

Also, surprisingly enough, this 3D game isn’t a big battery drain. It didn’t drain my battery too much. I only saw a decrease of 10% on my ASUS tablet.

One big amazing plus in this game is that this game is free of charge. And I didn’t find any annoying ads between gameplay!

The conclusion

This game contains a lot of trail and error. Yet, it feels very satisfying after you have beaten a level. I highly recommend this game for people who are looking for an interesting experience on Android.

While this game is playable on small screens, I don’t recommend it. Since it’s a big advantage when you see the whole room.

This game took me by surprise. Since this game is something that works very well on mobile devices.

While this game has some flaws, I think this game is really worth your time.

Anyways, I think I said everything I wanted to say about this game. Feel free to drop by in another article, I’m looking forward to it. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Have a great rest of your day and take care!