Tag Archives: ranger

First Impression: GameR-Mate Stik (Hardware) ~ Take Your Ubuntu Everywhere.

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Official website

Today I want to talk about something that has been in the works for quite a while. Last year, the folks over at BlackRangerSoftware sent me an mail promoting their newest product called the GameR-Mate Stik v1.0.0. I was going to write an article about it back then, but the devs created an updated version right after I sent them my feedback. On top of that, the COVID-19 outbreak and shipping something from the USA to Europe delayed this article until now. Now, with that said, I think it’s high time to talk about this product. Know that the developer asked for my 100% honest opinion and that’s what you are going to read in this article. Now, let’s take a look at the first physical product I’m going to review on my blog. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinions on the product and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

What is GameR-Mate?

So, image this. An USB stick that you can plug into any computer that can run USB3.0 sticks and with that, you can play your games without affecting the computer itself. That’s GameR-Mate. The technical term for it is a Live-USB.

The latest version I received is running a modified version of Ubuntu 16.08. Now, what is Ubuntu? Let me tell you. So, to be able to run your computer, you need an operating system. An operating system is a sort of “translator”. It translates instructions from software to actual machine code. For example, when you make a new folder, the operating system gets that information from Windows or OSX and tells the hard drive: “Hey, make me a new folder on that location”. An operating system is much more than that, but for keeping this article simple, let’s not dive too much deeper into the inner working of computers.  

Now, the two biggest operating systems on the market are: Windows from Microsoft and OSX from Apple. Of course, you have Android from Google and iOS from Apple for smartphones. Let’s not forget ChromeOS for Chromebooks. And there is a special one as well. It’s called Linux.

Linux comes in a ton of flavors called “Distro’s”. Most of these distro’s are free to use and give you even more control of your computer than Windows and OSX. In the tech community, there are a lot of people who prefer using Linux to Windows or OSX. They enjoy the greater privacy control, ability to control every little thing about the system or just don’t want to pay for an operating system. There are many more reasons why people choose for Linux.

The userbase for Linux is rather small. According to NetMarketShare.com, the most used operating systems on the market are Windows (88,14%), Mac OSX (9,38%) and then Linux with (1,89%). Now, that’s mostly in the desktop and laptop space. Now, something quite “funny” happens when we look at the server side of things. Just take a look at datanyze.com with the comparisons between the usage of Windows Server and Ubuntu… Now, this is only just one website, but let me tell you from personal experience as an IT staff guy in a big school here in Belgium, we server techies prefer Linux distro’s for our servers in most cases over Windows server because it gives us more control over the system and is generally more lightweight so it uses less resources.

So, why am I putting so much effort into explaining Linux for this article? Especially in the section where I should be explaining what GameR-Mate actually is? Well, because Linux gives you the freedom to create very specific products without a lot of modifications. Just take a look at this list and you might be surprised on how much things run on Linux.

GameR-Mate is a special USB stick. So, you can boot to it and play your games and take it with you. The biggest limitation is that you need a “host” computer to be able to run it. So, if you don’t have a computer, you won’t be able to access your games. But that’s a limitation of each USB stick is it not?

What’s included?

Now, you can buy a GameR-Mate USB-stick right from Gamer-Mate.net. At the time of writing, the stick costs 70$ (discounted to 50$) which is give or take, 65 euro (45€ if it’s discounted). In order for you to be able to run your games, you need to have a computer that supports at least USB3.0. I have tested mine on older devices that don’t have an USB3.0 port and let me tell you, it wasn’t a fun time.

But, how do you know if your computer has USB3.0 ports? Well, in most cases these USB ports are blue. You can also double check that via the instructions in this article. So, after you placed your order, you get your GameR-Mate stick.

My stick arrived in a protective envelope that had the stick in a plastic bag stapled to a quick start guide. This quick start guide helps you to boot your computer to an USB stick instead of the actual operating system of your computer. Besides that, you get an user guide with explanation and some great information to get started using the stick. You also get a thank you letter from the CEO for buying the product. And finally you get a welcome letter as well.

I did get something additional, but that’s because I got a beta version of the product so I get some forms to fill in to give feedback on the product to create a better product. Personally, I think that they should include this with every purchase, even when the beta phase is over, you never know when it can come in handy.

The USB stick itself is made out of metal and plastic. It feels quite sturdy but you can remove the metal a bit too easily from the housing. Also, if you ever created USB sticks with your own print on them, you will recognize them right away. Maybe it’s a thing here in Belgium, but I got the same design of USB from various other places at events. I have the same model in yellow, green, blue and red. But, that’s nitpicking.

Something I missed with the USB-stick is a better way to store it. Now, I added an additional metal ring so I can attach it to a lanyard. I find that a bit more secure since during the research and testing I was doing for this article, my cat Troy knocked the USB stick underneath my desk while he was sleeping on my desk. Thanks to the lanyard, I was able to get it back from underneath my desk more easily. Now, adding a lanyard to the shipment might be too big of a cost, but adding a small metal ring to add it to your own lanyard would be lovely.

The experience

Depending on the hardware you run the stick on, the better performance you are going to get. Keep in mind that you need at least a port that can run USB3 sticks. In order to test this stick out, I tested this stick on my main machine. My main computer is running an i7-4820K, 16GB of DDR3 RAM at 666MHz and an MSI GTX 1050Ti. My motherboard is an ASROCK X79 Extreme 6. While this isn’t the strongest of systems out there, my computer is strong enough to run all the games I want to play at 30-60FPS at medium to high settings.

When you boot the stick, you can select various different modes. From what I can understand is that you can choose between loading it from the USB or load the system into RAM. There is also a recovery mode included. I had to use that once since an update failed to install and that corrupted my whole OS.

In the user guide, you get the advice to make frequent backups. If I had made a backup, I would have saved my first testing version from death. But yeah, I’m to blame since I thought I would be able to fix it since I used Linux various times during my studies and at work. But when you can even boot the OS, let alone go in recovery mode… Well, then you are quite screwed.

In a future article, I’ll take a look at the games that are included in this package. The list of pre-installed software is quite expansive. You can find the list at BlackRangerSoftware’s blog. Important footnote with this list, since this list is created during the development of the stick, it might be that some games aren’t included on the stick and/or on the list. But, I’m quite certain that the amount of games won’t change. Games that I could recommend are:

0AD, which is an open source RTS game like Age Of Empires

Alex 4, a lovely retro platformer in the style of an old Gameboy game.

B.A.L.L.Z, a platformer game where you are a ball and you need to use the bounce mechanics to your advantage.

Frogatto, this adventure platformer reminds me a lot of games like Shantae.

Sadly enough, there are some repeats. A lot of repeats actually. There are various Tetris-style, Pac-Man-style, Breakout-style… games. This gave me mixed feelings. At once hand, I love the choice I’m getting between all these various games. But at the other hand, I got the feeling that all of those games were just added to have a higher number of games to try and sell more sticks.

Is this GameR-Mate fun to use? If I have to answer that question, I’m going to have to add a disclaimer. There is going to be a learning curve if you have never worked with Linux. If you are used to Windows 10, there are a lot of things you will miss that you took for granted on your Windows machine. For example: seeing the password you are typing in, loading animations while settings are changing, double clicking a window to make it full screen, a place where all settings are combined into one place, a notification center…. It’s just not there in the Linux distro on the USB-stick. Now, do keep in mind that this can be updated and added in a future version of the stick.

But, you still have to learn a completely new operating system. While Linux has a lot of tutorials, due to the huge amount of different distro’s and differences between them, it can be quite overwhelming. So, give yourself some time and keep in mind that the system might work quite different compared to your Windows machine. Now, I do think that Apple users will have a better time adjusting to Linux since in a way, the user interface of Apple systems and Linux systems have various things in common. (Sidenote: while they have things in common, Apple OSX isn’t Linux and Linux isn’t OSX. But the flow in the OS can be similar.)

When you give this USB stick a chance, I think it might have the same effect on you then it has on me. I love to play around with unique ways to play games. I don’t mind honestly if the game is a retro or a current game. As long as I’m having fun while playing my games, it’s all that matters to me. So, I personally recommend this stick to people who love playing a ton of different games and/or people who travel a lot and aren’t able to take their main gaming rig with them. I think that the asking price is well worth it for the amount of value you are getting. Plus, you can always install more games from the various store fronts.

With that, I think I’m going to wrap up this first article on the GameR-Mate Stik. I want to thank BlackRangerSoftware for being so patient with me and also for giving me the opportunity to test out this product. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article and I wish you a great rest of your day and take care!

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My Favorite Game Music #23 ~ Maybe with a jukebox?

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More articles in this series

It has been quite some time since I wrote about my favorite music tracks in gaming. It has been a year since I talked about music. So, for those who don’t know how this series works, let me quickly explain it to you. My favorite music to listen to are the soundtracks of movies, games, shows… I have enjoyed. In this series, I talk about my favorite tracks or the tracks I love to listen too. Now, a rule in this series is that I’m only allowed to talk about one track per franchise per article. Otherwise, most of these articles might get filled with tracks from my favorite games. Also, I don’t include remixes in these articles; unless it’s special, then I only talk about game-related music or remixes. Now, this one is one about the original music. But, let’s stop stalling. Let’s get to talking about gaming music. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the selection and/or the music.

Forager (Switch) ~ Boss Fight

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Forager, a game that is the love child of HopFrog. When I discovered the story behind this game, I found that the developer a real inspiration.

Besides that, this game is quite an interesting one. The game is inspired by Terreria, Minecraft, The Legend of Zelda and Stardew Valley. At the moment, I’m playing the game on Nintendo Switch. I know that the Steam version is more complete, but yeah. I didn’t know that this game was a PC game at first.

I’ll talk about my opinion on this game in a future article but for now, I want to draw your attention to the existence of this game with linking you to one best track in the trance/dance/techno soundtrack of this game.

I really can’t wait to play the update that’s now in BETA on the PC. I hope it comes soon to the Switch version so I can play these new things. Since they are looking quite interesting.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Switch) ~ Gears of Fortune

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The Metroidvania games are back and how! Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is one just a joy to play. It’s also one of the next articles that I’m writing for my blog.

I know that I’m playing this game on the platform with the weakest visual performance, but honestly, I don’t really care. The game is still a blast to play.

Now, the music is addictive to listen too. It might be one of the best soundtracks I heard this year. The tunes really stick in your head and I was unable to really pick one of them for this article. So, I picked Gears of Fortune just because it’s the track I’m listening to most too during this week. There is no other reason. The soundtrack is really good and if you enjoy this track, you really should give the other tracks a listen.

The orchestral arrangements are just beautiful. The energy of the ruined town and a haunted castle are really well portrayed. You really feel like a warrior on the battlefield really to fight the enemy and try to save the world from destruction. But, can you do that before it’s too late? Well, I think I know which game I’ll be playing after this article is published.

Etrian Odyssey 5 (3DS) ~ Battle 2

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I have been playing so many good games this year. Etrian Odyssey 5 – Beyond the Myth is one of them. It’s sad to see that it’s the final Etrain Odyssey game in the franchise. But, the series had an amazing run for being such a niche game.
For those who don’t know what this game is about, it’s a hard as nails dungeon crawler where you have to draw and create your own map to boot. I have reviewed other games from the series in previous articles.

But, I seriously wish that the Switch wasn’t such a distraction to me since I really want to continue to play this game. This battle theme really gets me pumped to play some more Etrian Odyssey V. The music of this title is amazing as always, so yeah.

A Hat in Time (PC) ~ Nyakuza Metro DLC – Rush Hour

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Review

I haven’t played the DLC packs of A Hat in Time yet. I have played enough to unlock both sections, but I haven’t completed either of them.

Recently, I have been playing the game with my girlfriend in co-op mode and we are having so much fun. So much fun that I copied the whole soundtrack on her phone for her to enjoy. Too bad that her laptop isn’t powerful enough to run the game. Thankfully, she will be able to enjoy this game on the Nintendo Switch really soon.

Now, when I hear the amazing music in the DLC, I’m really pumped to start playing the DLC chapters. But now I’m in a bind, should I start playing them now or should I wait until me and my girlfriend get until that point? This is a tricky question. I think I should wait, so we can both experience the amazing music and new content that this game has to offer.

Pokémon Ranger – Guardian Signs (DS) ~ Rand’s House

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Most of the pieces in this article are great tracks that really get you pumped up to fight or go on a great adventure. This Pokémon track is the complete opposite. It’s more down to earth and relaxing.

Recently, I bought the three Pokémon Ranger games on my Wii U and I have been replaying them. While my favorite music to listen too is the more action-packed music like the four previous tracks, from time to time, I love tracks like these to wind down.

This track is played inside of the more important character’s house. It fits the atmosphere of the conversation really well and fits the mood perfectly. That really reminds me, I should review the two other Pokémon Ranger games shouldn’t I? I have reviewed the first game.

Closing off

And with that, I think it’s time to close off this article. I’m so glad that I wrote this article since it really helped me out. In the last update article, I talked about how I felt a bit burned out on writing and a bit idealess/inspiration less. Well, this article gave me a lot of ideas for future articles and reminded me of a lot of games that I still want to talk about.

With that said, I hope you enjoyed listing to these soundtracks and maybe found some new tracks to add to your playlist. Feel free to let me know in the comments which games also have amazing soundtracks. I would love to hear and play them.

Now, I think it’s high time for my usual closing of the article. Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Gaming Nostalgia: What hooked me on Pokémon?

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Ah, Pokémon. The game of my childhood. I grew up playing Pokémon Blue on my Gameboy and watching the anime. When I was a young NekoJonez, I always looked forward to what the anime and the games will bring me next. So, today I want to take a look back at a few Pokémon games and what hooked me into playing them? Let’s go 100% nostalgia mode and let’s take a trip through memory lane. Also, if you guys and girls have your own stories about what hooked you on Pokémon, please tell them in the comment section below. Also, feel free to give me advice on this format, if I should do other articles like this or other game franchises. In any case, here we go. 

Pokémon Gold, Silver & Crystal

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I think it isn’t a secret to a lot of you that I have never finished Pokémon Red, Blue & Yellow. I have come close to beating the final boss, but I was always unable to beat him.

Now, Pokémon Gold & Silver were the first Pokémon games I have fully beaten. For some reason, I enjoyed myself a lot more with the 2nd generation than the first generation.

The 2nd generation had more things to do and had more roleplaying in the game. It was also the first game I started to make friends with. I discussed the first-gen regularly with my cousin, but I have more memories of discovering the 2nd generation together with friends.

The day & night cycle, a visible XP bar, genders, berries, special Pokéballs and a whole revisit of the area of the first game were such amazing concepts to me as a child. There was more to do and more to enjoy then first thought possible.

It was also one of the first times I experienced the odd feeling of nostalgia. I touch upon t in the previous section, the whole revisiting of Kanto, the area you played in, in the first game. It blew my mind so much that I wanted to relive that feeling multiple times. Yes, Pokémon Gold and Silver are actually one of the games that made me decide to start collecting games. Since I wanted to replay them when I grew up and experience my childhood all over again.

Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire & Emerald

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Good lord, am I going to make some people annoyed at me with saying this. My favorite gen is the 3rd gen. If the 2nd gen actually made me start talking about Pokémon with friends, the 3rd game we actually discovered together. We helped each other when we got stuck and we battled each other often.

Behind the schoolyard where nobody saw us since playing on your Gameboy Advance (SP) wasn’t allowed during school.

But a feature I adore in this game is the secret bases. I have spent too much time decorating the whole secret base and buying things for it. I always pretended they were little gyms. Back then, my imagination ran wild and I actually imagined that they will release a patch where you were able to run around in each other’s world to try and discover each other’s bases. I had no clue what underground feature the next generation would bring.

Besides that, I was just immersed in the world. I just loved exploring and walking around in this world. I have no clue why, but I love the 3rd generation Pokémon a lot. I still remember figuring out the braille in those secret caves to get the Regi’s and unlock the stronger legendary Pokémon.

Also, the amount of Pokémon ROM hacks created in this engine, is just amazing. I have played such amazing Pokémon ROM hacks using the gen 3 games as a base. But, talking about those is just for another article.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon – Explorers Of Time/Darkness/Sky

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When I had beaten the first Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game, I was extremely impressed with the game I played. Nothing was able to prepare me for the amazingness that was the sequel to this game.

The sequel had a more interesting story. But, what hooked me on the Mystery Dungeon formula. Well, I might have an idea.

I always wanted to play something else in the Pokémon universe. And that was this game. Thanks to this game, I got introduced to Etrain Odyssey and other dungeon crawlers.

While these spin-off games aren’t the best games in the respective genre, I love playing them because they have amazing stories.

It’s a bit sad to see that these games won’t have another sequel after Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon since GameFreak doesn’t have any ideas about where the series should go next.

But, back on topic. What actually hooked me in this game? For once, the personality test. For some reason, I always got different Pokémon as my main character but rarely to never another aura reading. I always got the starly silver one. Just funny how my favorite color is, in fact, silver and I was playing the game on a silver-colored DS.

Also, I have another story to tell about this game. One time, I ordered Pokémon Mystery Dungeon – Explorers Of the Sky from a trusted online website. They deliver it and I put it in my collection. I already owned Pokémon Mystery Dungeon – Explorers of Darkness. When I was actually cataloging my collection 2 years later, I actually discovered that they put the wrong copy inside the Explorers of the Sky box. So, I re-order the game from that website; guess what happens. They deliver the correct box but the wrong game again >.<

Thankfully, I was allowed to send the wrong manual and game card back and now I have the actual Pokémon Explorers of the Sky in my collection. Now, it’s time to complete that game since I want to find out what happens in the additional story.

Pokémon Ranger – Shadows of Almia

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I have played a lot of the Pokémon Ranger games. But I remember the 3rd one the most. Since that’s the only one I have currently finished.

The 3rd one is the most polish game out of all three of them. Also, it deals with an interesting story that takes place in two worlds, making the gameplay even more interesting.

If I would have to explain what hooked me on this game, I can only tell that you should look in the previous paragraphs of this article. I wanted to play something different than the usual main adventure. And that’s what this game delivered.

Catching different Pokémon and trying to figure out which Pokémon to capture to overcome the obstacles. For some reason, just writing about this game makes me want to replay this game. That would be perfect since I haven’t written an article about this game and I think that will be a better place for me to explain why I love this game so much. Or maybe a 2nd playthrough will reveal some flaws I overlooked in my first playthrough.

Wrapping up

So, that’s all I wanted to talk about for now. There are a lot more Pokémon stories I still want to share but those are for another time. I always wanted to do an article similar to this one.

Tell me what you think I should improve or change in the next edition. But for now, I’m going to end the Pokémon nostalgia here. 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, take care and have a great rest of your day.

 

First Impressions: Pokémon Ranger (DS) ~ All These Circles Make Me Dizzy.

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Wikipedia entry. (Since the official site is updated to the latest entry in the series.)

Sometimes games have a lot of potential. And this game surely has potential. This Pokémon spin-off is based on one of the opponent types in the main series. Yet, some games then fail horribly to deliver. I was planning to make write this article in a story-ish thing-y but I wanted to be direct for this game. It made me think about something. If you ever ask yourself why I don’t review that many bad games on my blog is because the games I play are the games that catch my eye and I think are interesting to play. I also look beyond the graphics and other things while I’m playing. And I trust my instinct in order to avoid bad games. Yet, it happens that a bad game slips in here and there, but when I’m having fun and when I’m enjoying myself, that makes the game a lot better. Remember that I judge my games extremely personally. That might be a flaw of my reviewing skills, since I should actually review my games more so that I look if it would be for everybody. Anyways, I thought this was important to say since there are a lot of fans for this game. So, to avoid flaming in the comments I better explain myself. But feel free to leave me a comment to tell me how I did or what you think of this game. Anyways, here we go!

The first isn’t always the best.

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This game made me doubt my instinct of choosing great games. I’m going to be extremely honest here, this game is flawed. Yet, it’s a game I’ll finish since I want to beat the first one in the series before I continue to play the other games in the series. I did play the sequel and the 3rd game in the series and I really enjoyed my time there. I never beaten them though. Okay, Guardian Signs I had beaten but not 100%, since I had a part of the epilogue left to beat.

I’m going to dive into the parts I didn’t like of this game first. Honestly, I don’t like the overworld animation. Some Pokémon seem a bit jittery when they move and the running animation of your character is way to fast for your friend Pokémon to keep up. And this causes a lot of issues. Pokémon will no clip through walls and various other locations to reach you. When they can’t cross a certain river or other place, they will spawn next to you after a short while of being off screen.

The graphics in this game look really neat though. It’s another take on how things can look in the main series. I’m so glad they took it in an other direction yet, similar. But the level design don’t look very pleasant. Not that it looks ugly or anything but I really don’t feel the polish of the other Pokémon games that go into cities.

Bad?

ds_pokemonranger_ss03 copyBut there are other things really makes me want to rip this game apart. First of all, the map screen is a total joke. It’s actually useless. Your map is more like a radar with an arrow representing you and squares if there is a door you can enter. Also, it displays Pokémon nearby. I actually found a glitch in the map. Before the sewer part in Fall City, you need to try to get on top the entrance of the sewers, that road, and look at the map then. It’ll appear that a lot of Pokémon are there.

Secondly, I really dislike in this game is the music. It’s bland and forgettable. I actually had to play the OST to remember the music. I really hope that the music in the rest of the game makes up for the music in the first section of the game.

Thirdly, while the capturing of Pokémon is an awesome idea and it works in the game as well, it’s the only really enjoyable part of the gameplay. The locations to explore are bland and generic. Also the capturing can be really frustrating since sometimes the Pokémon will run on the side of the screen which makes drawing your circles around them a real pain to execute. Not to mention the possible damage to your touch screen if you get a bit to … circle-happy? Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the possible interruption you can have in mid-capture when your styler levels up. Yeah, it can happen.

But the biggest let down has to be the extremely weak story. Even the first Pokémon game had a better story. It suffers from cheesy-ness, generic characters and basic plots. The plot can be summed up easily by: “Superstyler is stolen by bad guys to cause evil.” No character gets depth and stay dolls on strings to play a certain role. Such a lost opportunity. This makes predicting the story extremely easy and ruins the thrill of the story.

Why do I still play this?

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By now you might think that I have given up fate for this game. But surprisingly, there is a charm in this game that keeps pulling me in over and over again. Even with the obvious flaws of this game, it remains fun. Exploring the, linear, places to progress is fun.

Finding the right Pokémon to assist you in destroying a big rock is sweet. Also, you really need to think about which Pokémon you have to take along since you can’t have them all at the same time.

The controls of this game is a major plus. You can use the D-Pad and/or the stylus to move. And it actually works extremely well. Yet, I managed to find a bug in the controls. When you have a ladder that goes down, try walking at the side. When you are in middle at the side, the screen will shake while your character continues to walk in front of him.

But in conclusion, this game is good but not great. This game plays it extremely safe to introduce us to a new spin-off that is a lot of fun. But it needs a lot of polish to make the game more fun. This game might have some serious flaws but it doesn’t destroy the game and it’s still playable. But I’m going to leave it here. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review. Until the next one. 🙂