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Review: Adera (PC) ~ Let’s Rescue Grandfather!

AderaSteam store page – Microsoft Store

During a spring cleaning, my mom found her old Windows Surface RT tablet back. She didn’t need it anymore but I saw some use in it. After I reset the tablet to it’s factory settings, I set the whole thing up. It would be a tablet I used to start writing articles while I was on the go and also to take notes during gameplay. I have an Asus Zenpad 8.0 S for that as well, but this tablet was bigger and had Word built in. Now, this tablet can also play games. And that’s a second reason why I saw a use for this tablet. And a 3rd reason is because I just enjoy toying around with old hardware and tech. Now, one of the first games I started playing on this tablet was Adera. I recently finished this game and today I want to talk about it. Let’s go and have that adventure in the Adera. 

Let’s rescue Grandfather!

Adera - 1In this adventure hidden object game, you take on the role of Jane. Jane’s grandfather got himself into trouble and sent a distress letter to Jane. When Jane goes to try and find him together with her partner Hawk, their helicopter crashes in the middle of a desert. It’s there that Jane’s adventure starts. Together with the mysterious orb that she received from the package of her grandfather.

The story of this game is decent. The writing is well done and the pacing as well, but if you have played fantasy adventure games, the story won’t bring a lot new to the table. Now, I did still enjoy the story in this game. My biggest complaint is that it could have been so much more. The world and the setting have so much more potential to be explored.

Now, if you decide to play this game, I highly recommend that you play this game with the original voice acting. The English voice acting is quite well done in my opinion. But, most likely because of the region settings of my Microsoft Account, when I play this game on my desktop instead of my Surface, the voice acting is in Dutch. Now, I have nothing against the Dutch voice actors in this game but after I had experienced the English voices, I found the English voice over a lot better.

The following issue with the game is most likely because of the aging Windows RT hardware, but I had moments where the game’s text was sometimes in English and sometimes in Dutch. But, when the menu appeared in Dutch, some text was repeated several times. Take a look at this screenshot for example:

Adera-4.png

At the bottom left, it says: “Rate Adera!Rate Adera!Rate Adera!”. And there are a few other sections in the game that have the same issue. So, to avoid visual messes like that, I highly recommend that if you are interested in this game, that you buy it on Steam. You won’t have the issue where the game tries to display in another language and you have the best voice over work. I even bought the Steam version of this game for this review to do some further research.

But this review will mostly focus on the Windows Store version because that’s the one I played and finished. Now, something I can’t hold against the game was the fact that I played it on aging hardware. I played this game on the Windows Surface RT running Windows 8.1. Due to a bug in one of the updates, the Windows Store doesn’t work, so I had to reset the tablet multiple times. Each time, I had to download each and every episode. Now, the downloading and installing of these episodes took a long time. Maybe because the WiFi card and the hard disk inside the tablet is quite slow.

Thankfully, this game has an autosave in the cloud when you connect this game with your XBOX account. So, even when I had to reset my tablet to factory settings, download and install the game and the episodes all over again, I didn’t loose any progress. This is quite surprising to me and a very nice feature.

Now, I want to talk about something but I’m going to spoil something of the ending. If you are alright with that or if you have finished the game, feel free to highlight the following part. Otherwise, just scroll a bit down so you can skip the spoiler. So, here comes the spoiler: Something that really annoys me is the fact that there is a “season 1”. This implies that the game is going to get a season 2 or even 3. Because the cliffhanger at the end and multiple unanswered questions, the game feels incomplete. Now, the game is released in 2015 and the social media accounts have gone silent. So, I don’t think we will ever know what happened to grandfather after he got kidnapped… again. Now, the game got a re-release on Steam in 2018, so there is hope that we get a continuation of the story in the future… Who knows.

Windows Surface RT

Adera - 2Now yes, I might have played this game on aging hardware, but I actually enjoyed the fact that I was able to make use of the unique feature of this game. I think this feature is also in the Android and iOS versions of the game but the fact that the game supports touch controls is just amazing. Also, the fact that there are gyrocontrols for this game is amazing. When I moved the tablet around, the in game camera moved around as well. It was almost like I was controlling where Jane was looking by physically moving the tablet. The Steam version does not support this. Well, I might support it, but I don’t have a laptop has supports this kind of feature.

Anyways, because this game focuses on touch controls, the controls are a bit awkward when you decide to play this game with a mouse. Because you either swipe or physically move your device to look around in several area’s in order to find items and solve puzzles. That’s something that isn’t easily done with a mouse. Now, you can simulate a swipe with the mouse, but it feels different. Yet, I was able to get used to it while playing around with the Steam version after a while.

Now, let’s focus on the gameplay of Adera for a moment. If you have ever played those adventure games with hidden object scenes, you will feel right at home in this game. There are a few types of puzzles in this game. The first type of puzzle are the hidden object puzzles. In these puzzles, you are tasked with finding a handful of items in picture. There is a punishment when you spamclick on the picture. The screen will “break” and you are unable to click for a certain amount of time.

A second type of puzzles has to do with the mysterious orb that Jane received from her grandfather. This orb can do some strange things but in order for it to do that, you have to solve different puzzles. Speaking of the orb puzzles, there was one style of puzzles I truly hated with a passion. There is a puzzle where you have to tap the symbols at a correct time. When you tapped them at the correct time, you were able to progress one space in the puzzle. But, if you tapped them too early or too late, that means one space back for you. Thankfully, you are able to skip these puzzles. This means that I’m unable to complete some achievements, but rather that then being frustrated at a puzzle. Now, why did I hate this puzzle? Because for this puzzle you need to have a certain sense of rhythm and that’s something I don’t really have. The puzzle itself works just fine.

A third type of puzzle in this game is the fact that there are a lot and I really mean, a lot of hidden items in the game. There are close to a 180 optional items hidden all over the game.  From masks, pieces of clothing, coins, artifacts, butterflies to special items. There are even more items to collect. You can always see the items you have collected in the collection section of the main menu. These are separated in different sections giving you a hint in which episode you missed an object. And these items are truly hidden. After I had finished the game, I only found a bit over 80% of all the items. And I thought I was very good in finding these objects. To be honest, this is an interesting way to add a little bit of replay value to this really linear game.

The fourth and final type of puzzle are the fact that certain obstacles block your way. In order to progress you will have to find items. Some of these items are hidden in the hidden object puzzles and some can be found by exploring the area. The best way to compare these puzzles is with the gameplay of games like Broken Sword.

The game might be more on the casual side of things, but that doesn’t take away that the game is rather enjoyable. I really liked exploring the areas the game threw me in and finding the items to solve the puzzles. All the while I was looking around for hidden collectibles. I have played a lot of hidden object adventure games and this game is one of the better I have played. The fact that there are additional things to do like the hidden collectibles and the various achievements you can get is refreshing and great fun.

Something I really liked about the Windows Store version is the fact that I bought the collectors edition of this game. In this collectors edition of the game, there are various wallpapers and pieces of concept art. The whole soundtrack of the game is also included for your listing pleasure. In addition to that, there is a very short but quite humorous gag reel. There is also an ad for the eBook variant of the game.

These bonus additions are nowhere to be found in the Steam version. In addition to that, something that I found quite helpful was the fact that I was able to zoom in during the hidden object puzzles. There is no way to do that in the Steam version.

Now, something that the Steam game does better is the fact that the game is really full screen. This is only an issue when you play this game on a Windows 10 computer or laptop instead of on a Microsoft tablet. If you play the game on a computer, blue bars will fill the top and bottom of the screen like in the screenshot here:

Adera 4.png

This is a shame, since there is so much unused space and the game can run in full screen, since this is something that the Steam version shows.

So close, yet so far

Adera - 3

It always pains me when I have to write in a review that a game is so close to being a good game. Adera has a ton of amazing elements but it also makes a few mistakes.

Now, this game will take you roughly 7 hours to finish. It’ll take you a few more hours in order for you to complete. Yes, this game is somewhat short but when you compare it to other games in this genre, this game is actually rather lengthy. It also has replay value and for the price of 10€, you can’t complain in my opinion.

This game isn’t for everybody. When you dislike puzzle games or casual games, I don’t think you will enjoy this game. Which is a darn shame, since you will miss out on the lush environments and the amazing artwork. This game looks amazing. The animation is also pretty well done. You can skip most cutscenes, but you will miss out on the plot and the great animation. Now, the only thing that could have been improved was there was a bit more animation on the characters during gameplay. The characters are quite static outside of cutscenes.

The controls of this game do something unique. Usually, when you click or tap just above the middle of the inventory bar, you go to the previous location. This isn’t the case in this game. Because this game has a back arrow. This has it’s advantages. For example, now I don’t return to my previous location when I tap a bit too high by accident. But, this arrow works a bit inconsistent. In some cases, you are able to move to that location without the aid of that arrow and in some cases, you can only go to that location with the down arrow. It’s tricky to explain by text, but it will make more sense once you play the game. While I got used to the mechanic after an episode, it was annoying that the down arrow to move backwards wasn’t consistently used for the same thing and in the same way.

In terms of the UI of this game, it took me a while to get used to the Windows Apps interface style. Because I rarely used Windows 8(.1), I wasn’t used to the fact that you had to do certain swiping actions to bring up the menu system. This is something that the Steam version does a lot better. It was also confusing that the settings of the game were somewhat outside of the menu system of the game.

Now, in terms of the UI. Something I really disliked was when I replayed parts of the game on my PC to write this review, I noticed that the swiping doesn’t work in the menu’s. I had to use my scroll wheel. Another annoying “feature” of this game is that when you go to any menu during gameplay; to for example the collection menu, the back button in the menu system brings you back to the main menu. It would have been so much easier if this back button brought you back to the game to continue your playthrough.

While the game saves automatically and quite frequently, I found the load feature a bit lacking. Now, it works perfectly but when you continue an episode, you don’t know where your save file is at. When you finish an episode, the game saves right before the cutscene that plays as the cliffhanger for the next episode. Now, the thing is, the game uses cloud saves when you sign in with your XBOX account. So, when I clicked continue on the first episode on my PC, the end cut scene of the first episode started playing. It would be lovely if the load feature told you where the game saved. In addition to that, when you click on the “play now” buttons in the main menu with the episodes, the game directly loads your save file. So, if you want to start from the beginning because you think you skipped some collectables, you need to go to the “episode” section of the main menu and start it from there.

It’s a shame really, the UI could be so much better. There are just of bad design decisions. Thankfully, most of them are fixed in the Steam version where you don’t have the Microsoft App UI on top of the game. But, that version misses quite a lot of features of the collectors edition.

Something I haven’t mentioned or talked about is the music and sound design. The soundtrack of this game is quite well done. The only complaint I have is that some tracks are a bit too short and because they are played quite often, the loop started to annoy me in some puzzles. Yet, the soundtrack is one that I’m going to add to my music library so I can listen to it while I’m writing or relaxing. It’s that good. It’s a relaxing but mysterious soundtrack that’s fully orchestrated. Together with amazing sound effects and sound design, this game really shines in it’s audio visual presentation. Now, one nitpick is that I feel that the music for the main menu is a bit too quiet, a bit too mysterious. Sometimes I felt there wasn’t any music in the main menu.

Now, is this game difficult? Not really, this game can be extremely easy and quite challenging depending on the difficulty setting you pick. There are three settings. Depending on how difficult you make the game, the more supporting features are disabled. On the “EASY” setting, active hidden object or puzzle locations are revealed with sparkles and the hint and skip buttons recharge quite quickly. On the “NORMAL” difficulty setting, the sparkles appear less frequently and the hint and skip buttons recharge slower. And finally, on the highest difficulty, also known as “EXPERT”, no sparkles and the hint and skip buttons are disabled. You can change the difficulty setting at any time while you are playing an episode.

Speaking about the hint button, I really liked the way this game gives you hints. When you click on the hint button the first time, you get a clue to what is the next step you could take. There is an additional button on the hint pop-up and if you click on that button, you get the exact solution you are looking for.

During this review I have talked about various things that this game does better compared to other hidden object adventure games like for example the length, the back button and the replay value. But, there is one thing that this game doesn’t have compared to newer games that would have been a great addition in this title. The custom difficulty setting. With these setting, you can adjust which supporting options you want to enable and disable or how long you want to the hint and/or skip buttons to recharge for. But, this might have been too tricky to program with the ability to change the difficulty settings on the fly. The other thing that this game doesn’t have is a map screen. Usually, in these map screens you can see the locations you have visited and where actions can be done. This would have been helpful with some of the longer episodes.

With that said, I think it’s high time to close off this review. It’s time for the closing thoughts on this game!

Conclusion

Note: While I talked a lot in this review about the Steam version of this game. The conclusion applies to the Windows App Store version of the game that I played on the Windows Surface RT tablet.

The bad: 

  • The UI could used some more polish.
  • The Dutch translation has some text bugs.
  • There was no way to choose the language of the game.

The good:

+ Amazing audiovisual presentation.

+ Replay value in a hidden object game!

+ The collectors edition has a lot of amazing bonus content.

+ Amazing artwork.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Man, this has been a tricky game to review. I have played parts of the Steam version and the Windows App store version. I’m certain that the versions for Android and iOS have some differences but will most likely play similar to the Windows Surface RT version.

While the Steam version has a better UI, it lacks all the additional neat features of the collectors edition that can be found on the Microsoft Store. But, the version of the Microsoft Store has a lacking UI.

Now, this game isn’t perfect and isn’t for everybody. But what it does, it does very well. I highly recommend this game to fans of the hidden object genre or fans of the point-and-click genre. This game is quite underrated and should deserve more recognition. It was the first game I started playing on the Windows Surface RT and it was the first game I had beaten. Sometimes I replay a bit of the game in the hope I find the collectibles I missed.

The game gives you the impression that there are going to be more seasons, that the story of Adera will continue. With the game getting a Steam port last year, I have hopes that we will see another season in the (near) future. But, I highly doubt it will happen since there is no mention of seasons in the Steam version. Then again, it could be possible that the second season will start with episode 6 or something.

So, if you want to give this game a chance and you don’t mind a bit of messy menu UI, I highly recommend the Windows Store version. If you want a better menu UI, play the Steam version but know that you will miss out on the collectors edition content.

Personally, I really enjoyed playing this game and I’m happy that I discovered it. Now, I’m quite curious to see if somebody who reads this article is going to pick up this game. If you do, please let me know in the comments which version you bought and what you thought of it.

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

Score: 70/100

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First Impression: Minecraft Story Mode (Android) ~ Tappin’ That Adventure, yo!

Minecraft_Story_Mode_Logo.pngOfficial website

Back in 2015, when I was at Minecon, I saw the trailer for Minecraft Story Mode. I actually attended the panel as well. And truth to be told, the game didn’t interest me at all. Which is really strange since I enjoy adventure games a whole lot, but this game didn’t grab my interest enough for me to put it onto my “to play” list. But in November 2016, I bought this game in a sale on the Android store. And now, I have to explain why it made it on the list of best games I played in 2016 as an honorable mention… So, let’s dive right into my first impressions of this game. When writing this article, I’m halfway into episode 4. There are 8 in total. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

This isn’t Minecraft!

Minecraft-Story-Mode-9-840x525.pngFor those wondering, I’m playing this game on my Asus ZenPad 8S. So, yeah. In any case, let’s talk about the story as spoiler free as possible.

At the start of the game, you get to choose how your character looks and the gender. Right after that, you are thrown into the game. In this game, you go to a building competition to decide who goes to EnderCon. But, it doesn’t take long before something horrible happens. A monster gets loose that tries to destroy the world.

Before I take a better look at the story, I have to say, that I find it sad that people bash the story and the game because “it isn’t Minecraft”.  Minecraft is a sandbox game, a game where you have full control of the situation. But that’s a rant for another time.

This story is made more interesting thanks to the subplots that are going on. Since for most of the story that big monster “takes a backseat”. The whole story is written pretty well in my opinion. I enjoy how the dynamic works between all the characters. And how each action you take, changes the dialogue of the game. And something I truly like is that at certain points, the story branches off. Like you could choose between two heroes you could save, and your start of the next episode would be totally different. But that’s to be expected with a TellTale game.

Something that makes the writing even more interesting to me is that the developers made an interesting attempt into trying to implement all the subcultures of Minecraft into one story. The Redstoners, YouTubers, Builders, Adventures… they are all present in some way in the game.

About the story, there is one thing that I think would improve the game, in my opinion, is a sort of skip button or speed up button. I think that would be a great option for people who are playing through an episode again.

Sit through this game

Minecraft-Story-Mode-51-840x525.pngSomething I saw other people be disappointed with is the fact that this game has way less gameplay than Minecraft. But, that isn’t a bad thing in my eyes. That isn’t the main focus of this game. The main focus of this game is to tell a story using the Minecraft setting and lore.

The gameplay is your typical adventure genre gameplay. It’s very close to point and click gameplay. So, the first gameplay element is the dialogues. You can choose between 5 dialogue options to react to a certain situation. The 5th option is pure silence. That isn’t available in every dialogue, but hey, it’s there. The only nitpick complaint I have with this is that in some cases, that time runs out way too quickly. By the time I have read the options, the time is nearly up and then I still have to decide which reply to go with. Thank you for the pause button at least!

The second element of gameplay is the exploration. I have to admit, I would have loved a bit more exploration in the game. The exploration parts are way to easy in my opinion. Yet, I can forgive the game for that, because you can beat various situations in different ways. This gives the game more replay value. You also solve puzzles in this game and so far, no puzzle has really stumped me. Maybe in the later episodes, I have some harder puzzles, but so far, I haven’t gotten stuck at all.

And the third gameplay element is the quick time events. Oh dear lord, the quick time events. I have nothing more to say that they are sometimes pretty annoying to play.

So, the final gameplay element is the combat. And I have to say, this isn’t great on Android. The combat is slow and when you miss an attack, you can’t attack again before the animation is finished. I don’t enjoy the combat sections very much.

The rest of the package.

Ep3-2.jpg

Now, let’s talk about the other parts of the game. First of all, the music and sound design. The music is good, but this soundtrack isn’t one I would listen to outside the game. It loses its charm without some visuals.

The sound design is pretty well done. Because most of the sounds are from the great sound design by C418 for Minecraft. So, no complaints there. Also, the sound packs way more punch when you play this game with a headset.

The voice acting in this game is pretty good. I have played this game once while I was on the train and I forgot my headset, and I truly missed the voices. Yeah, they are that good in my opinion.

Visually, this game is pretty good but not perfect. Maybe it has to do with my tablet, but sometimes things didn’t render for me. I remember one scene pretty well.The gang was feeling on horseback, and the horse for the main character didn’t render always. So, the main character was floating away. Apart from the very few creative liberties the designers took, the game looks like an adventure map built in Minecraft. And I have to applaud the designers for that!

The atmosphere and visual presentation of the different areas you visit are pretty great. There isn’t a place I would change or adjust.

So, I have to praise the controls for the most part in this game. I was afraid that this game would control pretty poorly on Android, but I was surprised. This game controls pretty great on my tablet. The only problems I had with the controls were during the quick time sections, but thankfully, I was able to redo those sections and not make my mistakes.

Oh, before I forget, there is something truly annoying in this game. The download speed for the episodes is just way too slow. At first, I thought it had to do with the download speed of my tablet, but no. I have tested it with various speed tests and downloading large files from the internet. It has to do with this game, I’m sure of it.

I think I said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. There are a few things I have left for the review, but nothing that special. In any case, it’s time to wrap up this article up.

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