Review: Resident Evil 8 – Village (PS4) ~ Putting Together Rose.

Official websiteWikipedia entry

One of my favorite genres is action adventure games. The Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider and Uncharted games are just a few examples. And I don’t mind when you sprinkle in a bit of horror like in Fatal Frame or Silent Hill. Now, I have played Resident Evil in the past and I have gotten quite far in Resident Evil 4. So, at the start of 2023, I decided to pick up Resident Evil Village on my PS4, since it was on a massive sale, and I was able to grab it with all the DLC for €10. So, was that a good decision? Or should I have skipped this one? Is it a bad thing that I haven’t finished Resident Evil 7? These are all interesting questions that I’m going to answer and maybe you too. Because, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. And just before we start the article, I want to mention that this game was played on my PS4 Pro and I have only played the single player campaign on the default difficulty. I haven’t played a lot of the other modes and I haven’t played a second of the VR mode in this game.

Putting together Rose

This game is a direct story sequel of Resident Evil 7. While I own Resident Evil 7, I haven’t finished the game yet. In a matter of fact, I’m still at the beginning of the game. I didn’t finish that game because I got distracted by other games and I haven’t made the time yet to finish the game.

Now, if you dislike spoilers, I’m afraid to say that the intro to this game spoils the whole ending of Resident Evil 7. Thankfully, you don’t have to have played Resident Evil 7 to understand the story and what’s going on in Resident Evil 8. I’m sure that some references and story beats went over my head, but I take that.

One thing is for sure, now that I have finished Resident Evil 8, I want to finish Resident Evil 7 as well. How did Ethan Winters get in this mess? Ethan Winters is the character you play as in this game. After being kidnapped in your own home and the car being attacked, Ethan lands in a strange village filled with monsters. The opening story beats are in a way similar to Silent Hill 1’s opening if you squint and ignore a lot of details. But I’m going to explain it like that to avoid spoilers of this game.

Let me just say that the world building and overarching story in this game is amazingly put together. The mystery in this game is great, and it leads to an ending that I didn’t see coming at all. The ending leaves so much open for a potential sequel or continuation of the story, it’s insane.

Now, you can experience this game in various modes. I played this game in 3rd person, since I feel that’s the way how Resident Evil games should be played. And it’s a decision I don’t regret at all. Since, the voice acting in this game gets so much more powerful when you see Ethan’s full character model in cutscenes. Not only is the voice acting of the voice actors extremely well done, the sound design of the voices adds so much. The amount of times I was able to hear an enemy crawl up to me and take the right action during combat… I lost track of counting.

I was very immersed in the story of this game. The world building, the story, the additional notes scattered around, and the voice acting are just a few examples of things that this game does really well. The only thing that this game isn’t, is a survival horror game. Maybe it gets more tense when you play on the higher difficulty settings but on the default difficulty, this game isn’t too difficult. And it’s a shame, since I feel that the easier difficulty in this game drags it down a bit.

It’s not that the game holds your hand, but it’s that the game is a bit too easy. There are a lot of signs and moments where the game tries something unique to spice up the gameplay like having a big vampire hunting you down in one section… But by then, that section is reaching its conclusion, so it’s over before you know it.

But, how is it?

I think it’s fair to say that the 8th mainline entry in the Resident Evil series takes some inspiration from the 4th entry. This game feels a lot like Resident Evil 4 in core concepts. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it might not be what Resident Evil fans expect from the series.

I’m just thankful that this game doesn’t overfocus on action like in Resident Evil 5 and 6. In this game, you are having an adventure trying to find answers to various questions.

I’m going to describe the next section for avoid spoilers reasons a bit vague. But, the gist of this game is that there are, depending on how you count, 5 main area’s in this game. One hub area and 4 other sections.

Each of these sections have their own theming and puzzles. You have to explore each one of those sections, trying to find the next puzzle piece to progress. All the while you avoid enemies and loot your environment for supplies. You mostly use these supplies to craft more ammo since some of these enemies you fight either come in mass quantity or are anything but push overs.

Overall, most of the puzzles in this game aren’t too difficult when you pay attention. Only once I looked at a walkthrough because I totally forgot about a mechanic that actually held the solution. Now, something I really liked in this game is how the map system gives you a clue if you got everything in a certain room or not. When the room is colored red on your map, there is still something of value to be found in that room. If it’s blue, you got it all. I really enjoyed looking in every corner to try to find some more items or treasure to get more cash. Do know, that this only counts for rooms, so outside areas don’t follow this mechanic.

The map system is a really great tool to aid you in puzzles. It’s filled with handy notes to quickly find certain locations back when you got the required item. Or it’s a hint on which item you need to find to progress or open that location. So, if you are stuck… Keep an eye on your map. It saved me a handful of times.

Usually, I’m really hesitant when it comes to shooting weapons while playing on a controller. I feel that you can’t aim as well as with a mouse. Of course, there is aim assist but still… Somehow it feels strange in my mind. But, in this game I didn’t have a lot of trouble during combat. I enjoyed the tense moments in combat. The weight of the weapons and trying to find the correct weapon for the situation felt quite rewarding.

While playing this game, I often felt like I was playing the newer Tomb Raider games. The story takes a little backseat in during the campaign but it ramps up near the finale. Also, near the finale it gets more clear that this game is a more cinametic experience then an action adventure game. I have read reviews from other players who call this game a walking simulator. While that’s extremely harsh, some moments do feel like that sadly.

Visually, most of this game looks quite stunning. The enviroment and character models look mighty fine. There were a few textures here and there that felt last gen like dense grass. Granted, I saw that drop in some textures when I disabled HDR in my PlayStation since I think my fan isn’t supporting HDR. But, besides that tall grass texture, this game looks amazing. There are even a lot of throwbacks and easter eggs in the visuals and animations for long time Resident Evil fans to enjoy.

Speaking of animation, the animation in this game gets an A+ from me. The only nitpick I have is that the death animation of some enemies is a bit too long so it gets confusing if you have downed an enemy or if you have killed it. But, apart from that, the animations are so immersive. To that point that I sometimes had a hard time knowing when a cutscene starts or ends. Not only that, sometimes I really felt the punches I threw or the gun being shot.

Survival with a handbrake

The soundtrack in this game is also well crafted. It adds to the creepy and spooky atmosphere of this game. The score for this game feels like a more orchestral version of the Zero Escape soundtrack. When it’s not tense and making you nervous that there is something behind you, the soundtrack is loud and proud. It made me sit on the edge of my seat sometimes.

The only thing I regret is that I didn’t play the whole game with my bluetooth headset on. I only played the finale with my bluetooth headset and let me tell you, it makes the soundtrack that much stronger. It also helps with the sound design. The growls of the enemies are that much creepier when they are creeping up on you.

The controls in this game get a chef’s kiss from me. They all felt really natural and responsive. I only had some occasional janky moments when trying to run and duck underneath something. Since clicking the left stick once is going in or out of a crouch and pressing and holding the left stick is actually running. And in tense moments, the game didn’t always recognise that correctly.

In terms of UI, the only complaint I have is that the map screen and the inventory are two seperate menu’s. This is something that tripped me up multiple times. But, that’s the only complaint I have about the UI. The UI is perfectly designed and everything is easy to find and navigate. So, I was able to tweak the settings in the option menu to my liking. Since, I felt that the sensitivity of the aiming wasn’t fast enough.

The amount of things you can change in the options menu is just perfect. You even unlock some interesting stuff after you have beaten the game once which you can toggle on or off. Something I liked as well, was the fact that you get a warning before you an buy an attachment to a gun you don’t own.

Sadly, there are some glitches in this game as well. Thankfully, I have only experienced a few, but I have seen some strange things online and especially with the speedrun of this game… This game has some crazy out of bounds glitches. I even found one in my playthrough. Thankfully, you have a restart button in the pause menu to go back to your latest save, but the fact that it is there…

Apart from that, I mostly had a glitch free experience. I did have some graphical pop-in in the late game but that might be because after I had beaten the game, I discovered that my HDMI cable was going so that take with a grain of salt.

I do have one nitpick I have to mention as well. I find that the credits’ text didn’t had the best contrast to the background and I was unable to read some names because of that. I usually reference the credits to know if my research is correct.

Now that I have beaten this game, a lot of additional content got unlocked. Currently, I’m playing through the DLC Shadow of Rose. But, I think I’m going to do something unique for this game. I’m going to play through the additional and bonus content and write a follow up review article and tell you if my thoughts and opinions on this game changed. So, if you want to read that, feel free to subscribe to my blog and you’ll get it an e-mail when it’s published. It’s also a good idea to follow me on Twitter to get the latest updates.

So, I have beaten this game in give or take 9 hours. I was able to save quite easily at save spots or rely a bit on the auto save here and there. Now, from what I read, I still have at least three hours of DLC content and some additional game modes to play through. I feel that this game is a bit short and uses it’s idea’s a bit too quickly. Similar games go on for at least 3 – 4 more hours. But, that’s what the additional content will bring. So, if you want to get the most out of this game, I encourage you to buy the DLC as well.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Great visuals

+ Great soundtrack and sound design.

+ Great voice acting

+ An adrenline rollercoaster from start to finish

The bad:

– A bit too easy, no real survival elements in this game.

– Over too fast, some idea’s could have been used more/better.

The final thoughts:

You know what this game feels like in the end? Like you are eating the best french fries you have ever eaten but without any sauce. No ketchup or mayo, just french fries. While you still enjoy these french fries since they are the best you ever had, you still feel that there is something missing.

This game does a lot of things right, but it makes a few mistakes that hurt the game quite a lot. While you can run around in large open area’s, the game is overall quite linear. You go from one large area to another. Combine that with a bit too easy game, you get that your encounters become less scary and your amazingly crafted horror atmosphere looses a lot of its tenseness.

I think that this game shows that there is a great foundation for the future of Resident Evil. A tense story about something that transforms humans in something grotesque and inhumane and about somebody confronting it. But, please, make the game a bit less forgiving and don’t make the next game so linear. I’m not asking for an open world Resident Evil, but I’m asking for the possibility of having more puzzles to work towards at the same time. I feel that Shadow of the Tomb Raider hit a slightly better balance.

Now, is this game a disappointment or is it worth playing? Well, it depends on what you are looking for in a Resident Evil game. If you are looking for a survival horror game, you might enjoy this game if you play it on the highest difficulty… But, I’m afraid that this game isn’t a survival horror game on lower difficulties. If you are looking for a game that’s like the games I mentioned in the introduction of this review… Games like the Indiana Jones games, Tomb Raider or Uncharted but with a more creepy and horror edge to it, then you are in the right spot. Maybe that’s the sauce for those best french fries you have ever eaten… Perhaps Resident Evil is changing its target audience. Or maybe I’m overthinking it and the sauce is something else.

In any case, I still enjoyed my time with this game. I’m planning a second playthrough with the new game plus mode. I’m curious in what I missed. Furthermore, I know that this game has some shortcomings, but honestly, they didn’t bother me. This game was an amazing game to start off my year with, and I’m glad I finished the game. Now, let’s re-install Resident Evil 7 on my desktop and let’s finish up where I left off. Let’s see if Resident Evil 7 is as good as 8, or better or worse…

So, do I recommend this game? Yes, I do. To anyone who is into action adventure games. The production value is through the roof with this game. There are a few things holding it back, but they aren’t so bad in my honest opinion that it hinders the game that much.

Now, I still have to finish the additional (DLC) content of this game. Will this change my opinion on this game? We shall see. I don’t exactly have a time line for when the follow up article is going to be written but it will soon. So, for now I slam this book shut, to be opened in another time.

And with that said, I have said 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 a future article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 85/100

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First Impression: We Who Are About To Die (PC – Steam) ~ It’s But A Flesh Wound.

Steam store pageOfficial website

Usually, I try to avoid writing about early access games. Especially when they are still in development. Because, you never know if my article and review is still going to be relevant down the line. But, this time I’m making an exception. A while ago, I got a press key for ‘We who are about to die’ from the solo developer of this game. The solo developer is actually a fellow Belgian and created this project out of passion. So, as a Belgian hobbyist blogger I feel I have to write an article about his game. Although, I got a press key to review this game you don’t have to worry. When I go into the arena to battle this game, you as the crowd will get my 100% honest opinion on this game. Now that the countdown is starting, and I’m readying myself to enter the arena… I hope you as the audience for this article tell your opinion/thoughts on this game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. So, let’s go and start the match!

Editorial note: the review version of this game is the first publically released version after the beta versions of this game. (Early Access v0.1)

A story discussion

In this game you play as a starting Roman gladiator who is trying to raise through the ranks. In general, there isn’t really a story in this game. This game more focuses on the gameplay and it’s mechanics. Depending on what you enjoy in games, this can be a positive or a negative. Personally, I’d have like a bit more world building with a small intro or something. There are several mechanics like the four hosts who remain a bit “faceless” because they don’t have a backstory at all in the game. Now, the backstory of your own fighter is created on your battles. That works a bit like Rogue Legacy, where you can create bonus traits on your previous runs.

At the other hand, I can understand that there is no real story in this game since now the game is more open and anything can happen. We can create the story and lore ourselves, which gives the game a more sandbox-y feel. This can help with immersion into the game. Now, because certain mechanics in this game… I think it would be hard to create a story of any kind for this game and the characters.

Maybe the only thing that I’d love to see in the future in the game is a bit more historical backstory in the game. What I mean by that is that, this game uses the terms like Aspirant. But, what is an aspirant? Some history lessons would be a nice touch to this game.

So, what do you actually do in this game? The idea of this game is that you play through various battles to build up your fame and budget. With the fame and budget you can acquire various things like new gear or bonus buffs. But, a stronger character doesn’t mean a guaranteed victory. In one of my runs, I did a 5 vs 1 match and my team of 5 was beaten by that one dude since he used a strong morning star that was tricky to block.

This game is somewhat unpredictable, because there is a lot of randomness involved, you have to decide if using your hard-earned cash and fame is worth it to heal or get better gear or better save it for another roll. But do you risk waiting? Since, you might not survive the next battle and the money passed on to your next character is only a fraction of it.

Let’s please the crowd

Trying to describe the genre of this game is one of the harder things to do. Part of the core gameplay is a fighting game. In the arena, you have to fight and win the battle. Depending on your performance, you may have multipliers for your gold and fame. But, if you please the crowd by making nice hits and not hitting your teammates, the crowd throws additional weapons and gear that might win you the match. I’ll talk more about the fighting mechanics later in the article.

This game is also a strategy RPG. Since, you have to strategically uses your resources to improve the gear and stats of your character. Also, the more you use a certain weapon, the more damage you do with it. So, you have to take that into account since you won’t be using the same weapon and gear throughout your run. Using your gear efficiently is key to survival in this game. I lost one run because I forgot to repair my shield and I got cornered with my enemies, and I was unable to get a shield that the crowd threw onto the battlefield.

Earlier in this article, I already talked about the randomness in this game. So, this game is also part roguelike. Due to the rougelike elements in this game… the game becomes a huge balancing act. This game isn’t the easiest out there, but it’s forgiving in a way. It’s easy to get back into the action with a new character and to build him up. But, since the new character has different stats and perks, the gameplay is new and fresh.

If I had to place this game in a certain genre, I’d say that it’s a sort of action simulation game about gladiatorial combat. Since trying to put it in a better category would be a nightmare.

Now, let’s circle back to the combat system. This combat system isn’t your typical combat system. The best way to explain part of the combat system is the following: image that the main controls of the fighting system is the Wii remote. This game doesn’t have mention controls but the idea behind it isn’t too far off. To swing your weapon, you have to left-click and swipe your mouse into the direction you want to hit. The strength of your swipe also influences the strength of the attack. Also, when you right-click to defend, the location of your shield or weapon depends on how you swing your mouse.

There are a lot of different layers to the movement and combat that make the combat feel janky and unpolished, but it’s the entire idea behind this game. Since, you can interrupt and attack and decide to throw your weapon or shield to the enemy instead. The combat system might need some more iterations for it to feel perfect, but it’s a unique system. It may put some people off playing this game, but I find that it adds to the charm of this game. Since now the game is a bit more newcomer friendly towards people who don’t play a lot of fighting games. You don’t have to remember a lot of combos for strong attacks, you need to learn how these directional attacks work and how to use them in your favor.

This brings me onto the point of the controls of this game. The starting tutorial explains the mechanics you can use in this game quite well. The only tutorial that can use some better wording is the tutorial on how throwing weapons work. It took me a while before I was able to get throwing weapons to work consistently. Now, it’s a bit funny how the wording in the Aspirant Trainer is better than the actual tutorial. This Aspirant Trainer is a great way to quickly check your abilities in the pause menu, when you are unsure how a certain mechanic works. A very minor UI complaint is that when you click the “?” mark outside of battle, is that clicking on it again doesn’t close the explainations. You have to “approve” it on an empty part of the screen.

A great piece of advice, stay in the tutorial area as long as you need to. Get used to all the mechanics and little quirks of this game, since unless you reset your whole character and everything, you are unable to return there. And trying to learn the mechanics on the battlefield is anything but a good idea.

The current gameplay loop is as follows. You start first on the battle preparation screen where you can decide to heal, get new armor, bribe enemies… Here you make the most difficult choices since a few bad mistakes might cost you your character. When you are finished preparing your character, you choose a battle to praticipate in and fight. This can be a 1vs1, 1 vs many and many vs many.

Overall, fights are short. Most fights are done in 5 to 7 minutes. Currently, there are only 12 out of the 14 planned arena’s in the game but every arena feels unique and has it’s own additional challenges and quirks. Like one has wooden panels you can hide behind and another has a central elevated stage. Depending on your preformance in that battle, you get fame and coins for winning the battle. Loosing the battle, will mean you have to start over with a new character but you can pass a few things on, especially money.

Your goal is to buy your freedom from being an aspirant. Basically, an aspirant is a prisonner in acient Rome that’s fighting for his freedom. These goals is extremely steep and aren’t easy to achieve. Don’t expect to get it with the first few characters unless you are very good in these type of games. The difficulty in this game is a bit unforgiving. But, it has that “just one more run” mentality written over it. That “I’m going to get it this time” phrase is one I said often. And then, I’m out of glory to re-roll the fights I can enter and I get fights I know I can’t win… And then I win one by the skin of my teeth.

I’m quite curious what the other gameplay types and modes are going to be. Those who you can see on the roadmap of this game.

This game is the excellent game for one or two quick rounds and can is even fun for longer play sessions. The balance of between being not repetitive and repetitive is small but currently the game is balacing on it just fine. Especially, since you have to fight with different weapons and a unique battle system that is so much fun once it clicks.

For seven years?!

This game has been under development for seven years. Most of it is done by Jordy Lakiere, and it’s really impressive. For example, the amount of detail in the visuals is mind-blowing. The game looks wonderful and runs extremely well. In the options’ menu, you can set your max frame rate to 60FPS or 120FPS, and let me tell you that this game runs extremely smooth. My gaming desktop is getting rather old, but I didn’t have any big frame drops or lag in this game.

The effects and animations used in this game are also superb. There are a lot of weapons & shield combinations, and they all have unique animations. Something I really like is how the game slows down when you are going to make a strong hit or about to kill an enemy. Sometimes the blood animations might be a bit overboard, but then again… It feels quite rewarding when you kill that one annoying enemy with that big shield that’s blocking all your attacks since the start of the match.

The only minor complaint I have about the visual presentation is that in team battles, it’s a bit unclear sometimes who is on your team and who isn’t. This issue is mostly present in nighttime arenas where visibility is lower or when the other fighters aren’t wearing a lot of armor. Due to your teammates following you, I sometimes mistook my allies for enemies. And that negatively impacts your rewards. But on the other hand, it can be a balancing thing.

In terms of audiovisual presentation, the game is also pretty good. The music is a joy to listen too but the sound effects and sound design really adds to the atmosphere. There are a few things I’d improve on. First, I’d change the sound effect when you don’t have enough gold to purchase an item to a more “error-y” sound effect. It’s a bit “basic” and didn’t communicate the message always. Maybe add a little visual animation as well instead of only a message in the left corner.

Secondly, I think the sound effects of the weapons breaking and/or throwing should be polished up. Quite often when I was playing a character with a spear, I didn’t realize I have thrown my weapon. I feel that those sound effects get a bit too lost into the gameplay and doesn’t communicate with the player enough when you are unarmed.

And finally, I feel like the pause menu should have music as well. Since, it’s quiet, and I find that a bit boring. It could also be a great sound test when you are in the options’ menu.

Something I really like is how this game has an in-game menu to report bugs. It’s easy to use and helps the developer to quickly gather bug reports and things that the players don’t like.

Speaking of which, here are a few things I’d change and/or improve:

  • You can only see the week you are on, on the battle select screen. Why not show it over the whole screen?
  • The music doesn’t “follow up” with each other. Sometimes there is a silence gap when one track fades out and another one fades in.
  • What is “mouse X” and “mouse Y” in the keybind menu? Is that moving up and down / moving left & right? And how would you rebind that?
  • Make it easier to compare stats of armor. Since, sometimes I had to write things down or take a quick screenshot.
  • Buying an item is only possibly when you click on the icon. It also only shows the stats when you hover over it. Why not the whole box?
  • Why not have items of different status like Legendary have a special color around the icon box? It’d be easy to swap things around from your storage to your character.
  • During the game, I’d change the option in the pause menu of “Save & Quit” to “Save & Quit to main menu”. Since, that’s what happens. You don’t quit the game.

Most of those are polishing suggestions. Now, the roadmap promises more gamemodes and more things that can happen… which is all fine and amazing to look forward too. But I hope to developer doesn’t forget that sometimes it’s not about the amount of content but about the quality of the content. That’s what I sometimes forget when writing as well. I sometimes forget to make sure I still enjoy writing and write good and informative articles instead of trying to push out one a week to have more articles.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time while playing this game. I took me a battle or two to “get used” to the game but then the game hooked me. If you enjoy action simulation games or just want to try something different… This game is excellent. The game is also still in development, so more content is going to come in the future. The game is also fairly priced at 22€ here in Belgium and with the amount of polish and content there is already here, it’s a steal. The developer is also very open in his communication. I mean, look at this massive thread about the received feedback and what he is going to do with it moving forward. So, the fact he is talking about addressing a lot of the current feedback in the first patch(es), is amazing.

I think I may revisit this game on my blog after a while, when there are more patches out to see how the game evolved. Since, this is a game to keep your eye on. I’m so glad that Jordy reached out to me to try his game since it’s a real indie gem and I can’t wait to see what he is going to do next with it.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. This amazing gem of a passion project game that’s worth your time if you enjoy action fighting games with unique mechanics. 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 Quicky: In Retrospect (PC – Steam) ~ Automatic Mario

Steam store page

What if, in retrospect, Mario was supposed to be moving on his own? Well, that’s a perfect line to open this article about “In Retrospect”, a runner game developed by Paper Salamander about reflecting on the past. The developer send me a press code for this review, but don’t worry, you’ll get my unfiltered 100% honest opinion on this game. Also, this review is going to be rather short to avoid spoilers, especially because the game is roughly 2 hours long. But, is it worth your time, or should you skip this game outright? Well, let’s find out in this game quicky review while I invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts/opinions on this game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

The good memories

It’s kind of difficult to talk about the story of this game. Especially since this game is a sort of “choose your own adventure” style of game. This game is a sort of self reflection game, without it being a forced self reflection game. The way how the story is handled in this game is wonderful.

The way how certain game mechanics like resetting a level is implemented into the story, it’s charming. As charming as the visuals. The pixel art is extremely well done and makes the game burst with personality.

This game is also excellent at teaching the ropes. Most new mechanics are taught in a sort of safe tutorial level just before the actual level. And, you can skip this tutorial level when you are playing through this game for a second time on another difficulty level.

Usually, I’m not too fond of runner games since I don’t have the best of reflexes when it comes to timing things with the music. Yet, I didn’t find this game too difficult. It was easily to learn the basics of this game and play through it. I played a bit on casual and normal and the balance in this game is really well done.

Besides the story, there are also challenges you can partake in. These are small bonus levels with a special gimmick. You have to reach the highest scores to get on the global leaderboards. Personally, this isn’t really my cup of tea, but it’s an extremely nice addition to the game and I find that it works really well.

The music for this game is pretty good. The tracks are right up my alley, and they really fit the atmosphere of this game like a glove. If the developer ever offers the soundtrack of this game as DLC, I’d buy it right away. Since I want to add the soundtrack to several of my playlists.

The gameplay of this game is really simple but fun. This game is an autorunner, which means your main concern is dodging the enemies and obstacles. During the level, you can pick up items. These items can restore your health. Depending on your answers to the questions you get in between the levels, one pick-up might be more beneficial than the others.

Also, the mechanics slightly change depending on the path you choose. But, if this sounds interesting, I’m going to leave that as a surprise for you to find out! I’m leaving out some mechanics of course, but each level has its own special gimmick or “thing” and I love it. It works wonders in such a short game and really feels like the developer placed a lot of passion in the level design.

The bad memories

There are some things I don’t think work that well. The first thing I want to talk about are the default controls. Overall, the controls are quite responsive, but I think the hover mechanic could have been implemented differently. Quite often I forgot that this game was an automatic runner and I had my hand on the right arrow. Now, when you jump and hold right arrow, you hover in place. This is something that frustrated me during my playthrough.

So, I had to get use to only press the space bar for jumping since this game is an autorunner. But, why is it then that in the options’ menu under controls we have a listing for “directional – arrow keys”. You can’t turn back in this game and only the right arrow is used for hovering. And the up arrow to activate switches, or down arrow when you are running on the ceiling. Which is never really explained in a tutorial in the version I played. But the fact that the down arrow is used for ground pounding is explained in a tutorial level.

Also, you can only choose between WASD & the arrow keys for this movement. This personally bums me out for two reasons. As an AZERTY user, I find it strange that ZQSD isn’t recognized by this game. Also, it would make more sense in my opinion if you were able to find the mechanics to your own keys, so the controls are easier to learn and master for everybody.

A minor complaint I have about the game is that the time you have to reply to questions is just a bit too fast. I barely have any time to read the four answers before I have to decide. On top of that, it’s not always too clear on what the question is. Personally, I think this could have been polished up a bit more.

A second minor complaint I have is that you don’t get a level select after beating the story. It would have been quite fun to be able to play a level with the gimmicks you enjoyed after finishing the story.

Overall, I barely found any bugs in this game… Apart from one. The achievement system is somewhat broken in the version I played. In v1.0.2, the achievements only show up after I have closed the game. You get a small text box instead of the actual achievement pop-up that Steam games usually gives. But, this might be my third minor complaint too… The reason I mention it here is that the amount of pop-ups is a bit ridiculous after you close the game since there are close to 100 achievements in this game.

The truth

Now, is this game worth your 4 bucks? In my honest opinion, if you enjoy casual runner games, yes. This game might be rather short, but it has some unique mechanics that make each level fresh and enjoyable to play.

The biggest issue in this game is with the arrow (or WASD) controls and not being able to rebind them to the keys you want. Apart from that, my complaints about this game are rather minor.

This game is perfect if you have to spend an afternoon, and you are waiting for a big game to download. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome or get repetitive. This game is walking the fine line of too short and too long and I find it’s balancing perfectly.

Now that my article is writing, I think I’m going for another run since I want to finish the challenges and finally unlock the final challenge. If you are interested in autorunners or casual games, I think this game might be right up your alley. I’m glad that I was able to play this game and that the developer reached out to me. This game gets a personal recommendation from me.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. 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!

Score: 80/100

Game Quicky: Stygian (PC – Itch.IO) ~ Short Spooks

Itch.io page

It’s that time of year again. It’s time for some spooky scary skeletons. Well, it’s time for some horror. This year, a small developer sends me a mail inviting me to look at Stygian. It’s a short horror game just in time for the spooky season. Today, I’m going to take a look at it and talk about my own opinions on it. It’s free on Itch.io, but the developer accepts donations if you want to see more from them. In any case, in this review I’m taking a look at v1.01. I also have to give a content warning. Since this is a horror game, there will be some scenes that can trigger certain people especially when you aren’t good with anything related to gore and/or death. So, with that said, let’s dive right into this game quicky and let’s see what this game has to offer. But, one thing before that. I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts/opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: this is a rather short game, so I only took screenshots of the first few minutes.

The good

This game takes place in the late 1980s in England. A friend group of girls is doing a creepy sleepover at an abounded church. You play as Katherine, a young girl who arrives a bit late from work but is right in time to hear the creepy backstory. But, when Katherine goes back to her bike to pick up her sleeping bag and enters the church again… Things go horribly wrong.

The voice acting in this game is rather charming. The line delivery is a bit off from time to time but overall, solid performance of the voice actors.

Since this game is rather short by design, I’m not going to go more in depth about the story. Otherwise, I might spoil the experience and the story is best experienced as blind as possible.

Overall, the camera system works pretty well. I adore the Resident Evil – early Fatal Frame static camera shots at weird angles. It really takes you back to the early style of gameplay on the PlayStation and early PS2. Sadly, there are a few instances where the camera angles are a bit janky. For example, in one room you can walk through a door with some draped cloth over it. But, the camera switches a bit too soon, making it a pain when you missed entering the door and trying to get out of the corner, so you can attempt back going into the door. Thankfully, these issues happen far and few between.

Now, this game is a complete throwback since this game also sports some early PS1 3D visuals. This visual style can be a turn off for some people but not for me. I adore the visual style of this game. It fits the story and atmosphere like a glove in my eyes. There are a few minor things I’d have tweaked like making it a bit more clear who is talking, but more on that later.

And the throwback continues with the controls. Do we get tank controls? Yes sir, we do! And I love it. It takes me back when I was playing games like Silent Hill, Fatal Frame and Resident Evil on my PlayStation 1 & 2. Now, sadly this game doesn’t know that other keyboard lay-outs like AZERTY exist… or do they? Since the arrow keys also move. I quickly got used to the controls, and I was able to explore this game pretty fast.

Running around in this creepy church, reading various clues and discovering what really happened is a blast. The game gives you small sparkling hints to most objects you can interact with. So, this is no game of mashing the use key while going over every area to find one or two items.

The music in this game is great. While playing this game, the music reminded me a lot of Silent Hill. The more quote unquote strange ambiance sounds that strange form a melody that’s interesting to listen too but also puts you on edge. This is helped by the silent moments and the excellent sound design with the sound effects to make the game even more creepy.

Something else I want to mention is that this game is available for Windows & MAC. So, if you are a MAC user… You can also play this game.

The bad

There are certain things that this game lacks that make this game a small chore to play. And these are small things that can help make the game more enjoyable to play.

Let me get the biggest problem out of the way first. You can’t skip dialogue at all. Now why is this an issue? Well, in one playthrough I got the wrong ending. Without any game over screen, I got booted back to the main menu. I thought that was it, but then I decided to play through it again, and I found another route and got to experience more. But, that isn’t communicated well enough.

And the opening dialogue is runs on for a bit. But the intro cutscene has a few shots too many and that can’t be skipped either. Other horror games like the Zero Escape series did this a lot better. There you can skip through dialogue you already experienced, and it automatically stops when you encounter new dialogue.

There is something about the visuals I want to mention. The animation in certain cutscenes is a bit lacking. For example, in the opening cutscene, I thought I did something wrong since we see the same scene of Katherine riding her bike twice. It’s a bit confusing and pads out the opening scene too much. But a better example is when we get to meet the other characters for the first time. We are sitting in a circle, and they start talking. Yet, it’s not too clear who is who. A bit later this is better since you can speak to the girls one by one but still, this shouldn’t have been an issue. Just a bit more character animation when somebody is talking would go a long way. It’d also give some scenes a bit more pazzaz, if you understand what I mean.

The final negative I want to mention is that the screen to toggle full screen on and off only works in certain places. Do yourself a favor and toggle full screen on at the main menu. The keybind is F.

The conclusion

This game is an amazing indie game to play at Halloween night. It’s a charming throwback to the early PS1 games that might make you nostalgic to that area.

While this game is a bit rough especially when it’s missing some more modern innovations like skipable text/cutscenes or even a sort of save system, I was able to put those negatives to the side and enjoy my time.

This game isn’t for everyone, especially since some people can be turned off by the visual presentation and/or the control scheme of this game. But I think this game is developed for that niche audience that loves old school horror games and want to experience something like that again.

I think it’s clear if I recommend this game or not. Even with its shortcomings, that might be fixed or improved upon in a patch, this game an enjoyable horror story to play through. It’s charming, and I feel that it’s clearly a passion project done right.

Ant that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. A short article about a short game. I hope you enjoy playing this game and also enjoyed reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Likewise, I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

First Impression: Island Saver by NatWest (Switch) ~ Saving The Planet With Banks?

Official websiteNintendo.com microsite

I love games with a unique story or goal. When I saw Island Saver by NatWest for free on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I didn’t hesitate for a second. While playing, it suddenly dawned on me. The publishers of this game is an actual English bank from Westminster. Is this free game a hidden ad for their bank or is it a fun game? Or is it something else? Well, allow me to tell you about my experience as a Belgian citizen who doesn’t know anything about the English banking system what my 100% honest thoughts and opinions are! Meanwhile, I also invite you to write a comment about your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

Let’s save the world!

In this game, you play as an unnamed Bio Agent, and your goal is to clean up a peaceful island from pollution. You get equipped with a blaster which can vacuum and shoot out items. This also doubles as your water gun to clear out the goop on the island.

The story in this game is very light. To be brutally honest, the story isn’t anything to write home about. It’s a very generic plot. Yet, I’m going to praise it for something else. As an IT admin in two art schools here in Belgium, I have seen a lot of “edutainment” games that try to teach children things. But most of these applications and games I have seen are mostly exercise machines with a pretty skin.

Not in this game! The basic mechanics and idea’s of taxes and the risks of pollution are explained with mechanics. You also get from time to time, quick and small pop-ups referring to the real world. But, these are far and few between it isn’t a problem at all. This game really reminded me of those old school Humongous Entertainment games, those that sneak actual education in their games without it feeling like a lesson.

NatWest also provided some nice work sheets together with this game on their website for teachers and parents to use. Yet, nothing about this is forced into this game. All these mechanics feel natural in this game, and it all flows extremely well.

Now, what is it that you have to do in this game? Well, in this game you go to various islands to go from area to area, to clean it all up and help the animals living on the island. You do this by vacuuming up all the trash in the area so that plants can grow. You deposit this trash in the correct recycle bin while these animals eat from the plants. These animals are special bank animals, which have to fill up to be saved. As soon as you have saved all the animals in a certain area, you can move on to the next one.

There are a few other mechanics, like you can only store 20 items of the same kind per inventory slot. You also have to clean the goop left by the enemies in this game. But here is one of the first negative things about this game. This game does have enemies but besides undoing some cleaning progress and temporary ink your screen… They don’t do much.

We are so close, oh so close.

The disappointing enemies are the perfect example of one of the biggest flaws in this game. This game is way too easy. Because of this, the game barely has any challenge.

Yet, the gameplay loop of cleaning up the island can be enjoyable for some people. Especially if you enjoy games like Slime Rancher. But there is no real risk in this game.

You could argue that the challenge can come from collecting the special twenty items on the island. But, that’s an optional collectable. When I finished the first island, I found 17/20 without even really trying. So, even that isn’t challenging.

So, let’s see if there is any challenge to be found in this game? Let’s see, you sometimes have to buy seeds to progress from the in-game store. But wait, the game showers you with coins… I can’t remember one moment where I didn’t have enough coins to purchase what I needed.

I’d talk about various other examples, but the biggest issue is that this game doesn’t have enough meat around its bones. And then, the cracks start to show. Because of the repetitive nature of this game, it’s better played in short bursts. And to be quite frank, if you have played the free islands… The DLC islands don’t offer too many new things to justify the asking price.

It’s a shame, since a lot more could have been done with the world that was created here. Maybe we could have used the trash we vacuumed up to create new houses for the animals, or maybe we had to water the plants more than once to make them give off their fruit. But, alas, the game stays too much on the surface level and doesn’t dare to dive into the depth of its possibilities.

I wish it did since there is a lot of potential here. Visually, this game looks amazing. Colorful and family friendly. It’s also easy to understand so the tutorials are short, sweet and to the point. But, then the game lacks a map screen so, it’s a pain to find certain areas when you get lost in the later parts of the level. It’s also a pain to sometimes find a full bank animal in a large area… Since, when a bank animal is filled, it stays in place until you vacuum out the coins from its belly. Yeah, these bank animals are basically walking piggy banks.

The animation in this game is adorable and works really well. Together with the clean UI, it quickly shows the player all the information that you need… But, then finding the enemies can be a pain with the annoying radar. You barely see the distance between you and the enemy. And on top of that, the amount of times the enemies just stopped in front of me, so I could shoot them. It’s painful.

Beware, it breaks.

It’s clear that a lot of passion and love was put into this game. The joyful and relaxing music and charming sound effects are another examples of that. This is a game you can wind down with and relax.

At one hand, I miss some challenge in this game… But, on the other hand it’s still enjoyable to have a game that you can wind down with after a long day at work.

The fact that this free game isn’t riddled with microtransactions left and right is a blessing. The only content you’ll have to pay for are two optional, additional levels. But, here is where I have to report on something. I don’t know yet if this is a freak occurrence but, in one of the DLC levels, the game broke for me.

Broke as in, really broke completely. Just look at the following Tweet I posted yesterday. So, some background. Quite often I play games I want to review on the train from and to work. During one train ride, my game decided to crash during a cutscene that would allow me to go to the next area. Now, I think some variables got flipped but not all. And sadly, the automatic saving system screwed me over here.

Since, when I reloaded that save after rebooting the game, I was unable to vacuum up any items. The gun kept being stuck in the vacuum mode and my rumble went into overdrive. And when I tried to open the pause menu or the menu to summon a bank animal to ride… The game went into a full softlock. This is a situation where a game keeps working, but almost everything locks up, and you can’t do anything about it. Sadly, to recover from this, I had to fully wipe my save file and restart everything. It’s a shame to see that certain softlocks and bugs are still in the game. Thankfully, a lot of the reported ones got fixed but, I don’t see this issue getting fixed almost 2 years after release.

Just like I don’t have high hopes of seeing the power-ups coming to the game. Since, it always says: “coming soon”… But the last update to this game was in September 2020.

Yet, I don’t think I can complain too much. I mean, this is a free game released during a pandemic. Also, when you look at the website of the developer Storm Cloud Games, this is the first game that greets you. It’s also released for free on almost every platform. The amount of work that this would have taken is just insane.

Overall, this game is clearly an edutainment children game that put entertainment first. With easy to learn and easy to master controls, this game is quite enjoyable to play in short bursts but the lack of depth in the game and the repetitive nature of the game makes you wish for a bit more. The game has the charm but not the “umph“. I’m honestly afraid that other similar games like Slime Rancher blow it out of the water.

Would I recommend playing this game? Yes, I do recommend it for casual players who are looking for an enjoyable charming adventure game. But, don’t set your bar too high… Since, this game doesn’t dare to go deeper into the ocean than dipping its toes into it. But, maybe that’s enough to have an enjoyable train ride to school or work for you.

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

The Great Ace Attorney Goes To Review Trial

A collab review by AdventureRules & NekoJonez
Capcom pageNintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Introduction

When the reader clicked open the link, they entered a luxurious courtroom where the jury, the prosecution and the defense were preparing themselves to start the biggest trial in their careers. The headlines didn’t lie. “Is this the great return of the Ace Attorney series?”. When the title dropped on July 27th 2021 on the Nintendo Switch and other platforms, the reviews started to come in. It’s a big departure from the previous entries in the series, and there is a split between the fans. So, two hobbyist reviewers and big fans of the series decided to battle it out in a courtroom and try to be able to answer the question once and for all. Is the game worth your time, dear readers, or is it not? Take a seat in the gallery and enjoy this duel in the courtroom, and feel free to let us know how we did and what you would bring to the table in this battle. 

The judge rose to his podium while he slammed down his gavel. “The court is in session. Is the prosecution ready?” the judge spoke while looking in the direction of the cat-human hybrid sitting behind the prosecution bench. “Yes M’lord” the prosecution answered. Then the judge looked towards the defense and asked: “Are you ready consul of the defense?”. The defense, trying to hide his nerves, firmly pushed up his glasses and said: “Yes, my lord. The defense is ready.” 

The atmosphere in the courtroom was tense. At one hand, you were surprised to see that these two fans stood face to face in this courtroom defending a game. You know that these two writers are good friends, and it’s not the first time they worked together. But now, it looked like they would eat each other raw to win this court battle. But, on the other hand, you were curious what arguments they would bring to the table. You were curious what their thoughts and opinions were about the game you were looking forward to. While you were lost in thought, you missed the judge asking the prosecution to give their opening statement.

“… so, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a combination of two games that left the Japanese shores for the first time this summer.” the prosecutor said, while raising a scroll. “The original versions got released on the Nintendo 3DS way back in the summer of 2015 and the sequel in the summer of 2017. At first, the developers had no intention of bringing this title to our western shores, so fans took it upon themselves to translate the title. But, to everybody’s surprise, this title got an official translation and all the additional content and behind the scenes material got translated into English and as you all know…” the prosecution continued.

You raised an eyebrow, since the way the prosecution was acting looked a lot like how the prosecutor in the trailer of the game was acting. The only thing you were missing was the pouring of wine. Maybe the writer for the prosecutor got a bit lazy and copied the game a bit too much, you thought. You crossed your fingers in the hope that you would see more of his personal style shine through instead of copying the game too much. It would do this trial so much better if it was unique and not copying the established series and formula, you concluded. But, then you got a bit annoyed that you missed the actual opening statement. Thankfully, you read the headlines of the papers, so you know what this trail is going to be about. 

Visual Presentation

“Let’s start with the visual presentation”, the judge said. The attorney and the prosecution quickly agreed that the visual presentation is excellent in this game. “It’s a huge visual upgrade when you look at it from the 3DS games.” the attorney said. The prosecution somewhat agreed and said: “True, the attention to the details is exquisite. Yet, there were some moments when I felt some models looked off. Not polished enough when being brought over from the 3DS. There was even a puzzle that focused on 3D related technology that would have worked so much better on the 3DS. The fact that they didn’t implement something different or a solution for that… But, something that made me roll my eyes is how they reused the models for the jury. The excuse of ‘London is a big city, so you’ll find look-a-likes’ is okay, if it only happens once. It, sadly enough, happened more than once. Too much to count, to be frank.”

The attorney stepped in and said: “Those moments are few and far between. Besides, imagine the poor designers having to create 50 different character models and such to have unique juries. Let them reuse them, as long as there is variation, and it doesn’t get stale… they also justify it in most cases by having them literally be the same character and not just a lookalike. Ryunosuke even comments on it in one of the trials. So while I will allow that some may not like this choice, it was an intentional one on the part of the designers, and they did the work required to make it make sense in the fiction.” 

The attorney paused for a brief second, took a breath, and continued, “… If we are talking about the visual presentation, let’s mention the animations as well. The cutscenes in this game are way better animated than the previous title. The background is less static. The character animations are A+. Multiple times, I found myself literally laughing out loud at some ways these characters behaved. They strongly convey the personality and attitude of the cast.”

A sigh was heard through the courtroom. Of course, the prosecution had an objection. “The cutscenes are less static, I’ll give you that. But, explain to me why there are so few unique locations in this game. We visit the same hospital room in at least 4 to 5 different cases. You have a point that it would cost too many resources to make something unique each and every time, but why do the characters always have to mention… ‘Oh, what a coincidence… that place.’?” The prosecution slammed on his desk and looked straight at the attorney. “Now, let’s talk about the animations. I’m sorry, but I found that some side characters had more memorable animations compared to the main characters. Take Gina for example, her emotions were way more clear when you read her dialogue compared to the ones of Sholmes for example. Honestly, a bit more variation in the animations would be welcome. Especially, you see the same animations during give or take 10 cases this time and not 5. And maybe a few more if you include the bonus content.”

There was a silence in the courtroom. You felt that both parties were making good points. Indeed, the game looked amazing with various memorable locations. The attention to detail and the little nods to the rest of the series can warm any fan’s heart. But, you can also understand the other side of the argument. At first, this game was split into two 3DS games, and having repeat locations and almost the same animations on repeat, well that could get a bit dull and repetitive indeed.

A hammer slammed down, courtesy of the judge. “Okay, I heard both your points, counsels. But a game is more than just visual presentation and animations. Let’s move on to sound, the audio of this game. Let’s talk about that. Counsel of the defense?”

Audio and Controls

You noticed the attorney smiling and when he started talking, you felt the joy and passion of his words. “I loved this soundtrack so much, but of course, Ace Attorney always knocks it out of the park when it comes to music. There were perhaps fewer songs that stood out to me as all-time favorites, but I found that this soundtrack creates a more evocative atmosphere compared to the other games. Having differences in instrumentation and style depending on which country the characters were in made a difference.” the attorney said. 

The prosecutor squeezed the bridge of his nose and said: “Apart from a few tracks, I can’t agree more. There were a few tracks that didn’t hit the mark in my opinion. But, there is something that this game does that doesn’t sit a hundred percent right with me. Almost every character has his/her own theme. But, they like to use their own themes more during scenes instead of something that would fit the scene more. It made some scenes less memorable in my opinion. Then again, it did make the characters more memorable. So, make of the above point what you will.”

It was an interesting question. Should music in a game make a scene or a character more memorable? There was no real right answer for that question, you thought to yourself. And maybe that’s a question you should leave to game designers and producers instead of wondering it for yourself. While you were thinking about that question, you didn’t notice that both parties were talking about the sound effects in the game. You did hear the summary of it, thankfully.

“So, both parties agree that there is nothing wrong with the sound effects. Intriguing.” the judge said. “Let’s move on to the next section. Let’s talk about the various elements of the design.”

“The controls work pretty well. They are extremely responsive and made me feel in control of the whole series of events.” the attorney said. The prosecutor smirked, and you knew that it didn’t take long before a snide remark was going to come the attorney’s way. “Oh yeah? You are totally ignoring some frustrating things. Let’s talk first on when you go through the testimony of the witnesses, you don’t loop after the last statement to the first statement.”

The attorney shook his head and when he looked up to watch the prosecutor right in his eyes and remarked, “But that has an easy explanation. Just imagine being stuck at a certain point, and you skip the dialogue after the cross-examination where you get a hint to progress.” A sigh was heard. “Okay, I get what you are saying. But, think about this one. The original games were released on the 3DS. This version is on the Switch, where we have TWO additional buttons. One of these buttons could have been a sort of switch you could toggle for toggling between a loop or non-loop mode.”

There was no arguing with that. The prosecutor had a valid point there, but he wasn’t done yet talking about the controls. He rose a finger and said with a smile: “Oh, and one other thing. Let’s not forget that fast-forwarding in some scenes don’t even work correctly. The joint reasoning or the dance of deduction is slow when you have to repeat it when you made a few too many mistakes.”

A debate about some small, minor annoyances of the controls continued. You knew that finding the right balance between mechanics, controls and world-building is a difficult one to get perfectly right. There are always going to be things that work and don’t work. If flawless things existed, would they still be fun? From the controls, you heard the debating pair moving on to other things. 

Replayability and Difficulty

“How about you get two games, including the DLC and bonus content, for the price of one? You get 70, if not close to 80 hours of content to enjoy. Isn’t that worth the price of admission by itself?” the attorney said. 

“If only there was a demo for people on the edge to enjoy. That would make that deal even better. Yet, there are two things I want to touch upon. First, the DLC. You can use alternate costumes, but tell me… Why can you only use them in the second part of the game?” the prosecutor said with a slight annoyance in his voice. The attorney wanted to counterargue, but the prosecutor slammed his fist down and continued.

“Oh, and let’s not forget how everything is already unlocked from the start. Apart from a few things, you can start with the bonus material and totally spoil yourself with the spoiler warnings that could have been implemented a LOT better. Granted, all the bonus content is included, but honestly, after finishing the main game… I felt a bit burned out on the game and I haven’t touched the additional content at all.”

The defense attorney’s eyes were wide behind his glasses. The aggressive offense from the prosecution had left him somewhat stunned. He took a calming breath and spoke. “At least the game is somewhat replayable. I imagine it would be fun to revisit this game after you’ve seen the whole story and to recognize the moments of foreshadowing for what they really mean. Also, you can try to go for unlocking all of the achievements – called medals in this game,” he explained. “Oh, and the automated save system is a blessing. You can save essentially anywhere and if you mess up you lose almost no progress.”

“Those two are quite valid points,” the prosecution allowed. “Now, I think we are going to talk about the difficulty of this game now. Well, I have something to say about that. Something that couldn’t be avoided, with combining two games into one as a sort of collection, is that the first few cases in the 2nd half of the game are a bit on the easy side. Since, originally, you couldn’t be 100% certain if a player played the first game before the second. But, the game isn’t too challenging overall. The previous entries in the series were more difficult. That’s not to say that this game is a cakewalk, though. But, overall, this game felt easier compared to the previous games… But that might have to do with the fact I have been playing these games for years now. I actually found the leaps of logic in this game to be tougher than I remember some other games in the series being. In the second game in particular, I had a game over in every case due to moments where I thought the needed evidence was tricky to figure out.” After that long remark, the prosecutor paused.

He thought he had the attorney cornered. But, don’t ever underestimate somebody who is reviewing or talking about games for so long; a comeback can always happen. 

“I’ll allow that following the logic of an Ace Attorney game can be challenging,” the defense began. “But there’s a place for it. For series veterans, the unique brain bending mechanic of pitting two jury members to each other is a welcome addition. Meanwhile, for those who don’t want to deal with the challenge element of the game, there is a story mode where you just watch through the game’s story without any gameplay mechanics slowing you down. So for players who find the challenge to be a barrier, there is a way to experience the story without the puzzles getting in the way.” 

The judge was in awe, he didn’t have to interject nor lead the trail. Both parties were going from one topic to another and putting all their cards on the table. You knew, that’s because both parties have been analyzing games for several years, so they know what to watch out for. They chose to debate in this manner to talk about this game, they wanted to do something unique to review this game, and they were enjoying themselves quite a lot. Suddenly, you heard the hammer of the judge hit, and you looked up to him.

“Before you two ramble on and on about the game, let’s focus on the final two topics of this trial. These are gameplay and the story. Let’s start with the gameplay. Is this game fun to play?” the judge asked.

Gameplay and Story

This time, the attorney started with his argument: “I really liked the analysis sections and pitting the jury against each other. The summation examination mechanic is really solid and adds a lot to the trials. I also liked the Dance of Deduction mechanic for investigations, as it made a section of the game that I usually find to be kind of middling into something more interesting. Being able to examine most pieces of evidence is great and adds a layer of drama to the trials when you suddenly get something new and then a huge new clue comes from checking it out.”

And of course, as expected, the prosecutor wanted to say something as well. “I could start an argument that the game is somewhat repetitive. But, the game is for a certain audience. An audience that enjoyed the mystery novel gameplay. So, they won’t get too bored. And if they get bored, or burned out, they can take a break and come back to the game at a later time. I don’t have any counterarguments in the gameplay department. This game is easy to learn and if you have played previous entries in the series, it’s still enjoyable to play with the new mechanics and tricks it brings to the table.”

So, it’s time for the big one. The story. You didn’t want to miss this. Both parties agreed to keep this debate spoiler free, so you were curious how they were going to handle that. You heard the judge introduce and explain that fact, and both parties looked to each other, readying themselves for the most important topic of this whole debate. 

After a small pause, the attorney started: “I really enjoyed Ryunosuke as a protagonist and the way in which this story is all about building his self-confidence and him finding his path through life. Susato is a wonderful assistant character, and I found myself cheering for her all the time during my playthrough. While Lord van Zieks being racist against the Japanese people really bugs me, it made it fun to get the upper hand against him during the trials, and he has a powerful, evocative design. Also, let’s not forget that this entry has various moments where things don’t always have the rose colored ending we would come to expect.”

The prosecutor agreed, but had to add a few things. “Yet, it sometimes falls in the same trap that all the previous entries started to fall in. I found some sections to be a bit predictable. But, I’m not going to go too in-depth about that since we agreed to keep this debate spoiler  free. One thing I would have loved to see is more voice acting. The voice actors did an amazing job in the cutscenes to make their characters come to life. If only that was used more. Of course, it would be somewhat overkilled if the whole massive script was voice acted, but a bit more would be stunning. It would give more power to certain strong moments in the game.”

The attorney swiftly moved on and said: “It’s a breathtaking entry point for newcomers since it’s a totally new cast of characters. This has been my favorite storyline since Trials and Tribulations. The story is grounded and compelling, with lots of twists and turns throughout. Using two games to tell one big overarching story was a good move.” 

The prosecutor cracked his whip loudly, causing the defense attorney to reflexively flinch. The entire courtroom was paying attention to him. “But, there are a few things that could have been handled better in terms of writing. First, if you don’t understand English too well, especially British English… A lot will go over your head with the dialect writing and no option to turn it off. But, props for writing the script in that way, though. Now, if only there were more Japanese jokes and such snuck in when a case played in Japan. Speaking of which, there is no investigation section in Japan. Which brings me to my next point. The structure of the game feels weird in places. The tutorial feels too long in the first game because of both the first and second chapters being tutorials (one for trials and one for investigations). The first game essentially only has two proper cases in it, and the trials are never broken up by investigation sections, so the investigations feel super long.”

He left a small pause to try and read the room. It looked like he wanted to say something, but he was unsure if he should mention it or not. You could read in his eyes that he has seen this dilemma before. Should he talk about something that might spoil the whole game before or should he leave it out since they agreed not to talk about spoilers in their debate? 

So, you sat there looking at both parties argue. Each party had great points to bring to the table. You could totally understand where both parties were coming from. But, now it’s up to you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusion. Yes, the writers of this collab are taking that ‘easy’ way out. Now that you heard the negatives and the positives of the game, what do you think? Let us know in the comments down below, and maybe we shall ask you to be our next witness in this trail to answer the question in this trail once and for all. 

Editorial note: the portrayals of the prosecution and defense represent the combined views of both NekoJonez and Adventure Rules, who each contributed pros and cons to the review. 

Additional note from me, NekoJonez: Thank you so much Ian from Adventure Rules for working with me on this! Your art, advice, proof reading and advice made this collab come out the amazing way it did. Really check out his blog and his Twitter if you want to see more of his work. It’s amazing and worth checking out! Thanks buddy for this collab and thank you for all the support man!

First Impressions: Sherlock Holmes – Crimes and Punishments (XBOX360) ~ Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

Wikipedia entry

I can’t really explain why, but sometimes I really like to play detective games and trying to solve a crime. That’s why I’m really into the CSI games. Now, when one of my neighbors in our yearly local garage sale started selling his XBOX360 and PS4 collection, I saw he had Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. While I’m well aware that this game got a port this year onto the Nintendo Switch and Steam, I chose to play the XBOX360 version. Mainly since it was €4 at the garage sale and the Switch version would have set me back way more for just a bit of visual upgrades? Well, I wanted another excuse to boot up my XBOX360 once more. But, did it stay on, or did I start looking toward other games and/or consoles? Well, let’s talk about it in this article, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of the game and/or this article.

Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

It’s no real surprise that you take on the role of Sherlock Holmes in this game. Together with your trusty best friend Watson, you are solving strange cases left and right in London in the Victorian era. This game takes place in 1893. In the first case, you investigate the murder of an old captain with a vile reputation. Explaining any more of the plot would ruin the story.

The cases in this game aren’t that long, and they are somewhat unrelated. So, if you are looking for a game with character development or growth… This isn’t the game for you. The writing in this game is more aimed at players who want to relax and enjoy a fun murder mystery like an episode of CSI. With some familiar characters, but each episode is a different case.

The writing itself is quite enjoyable. I really feel that I’m in a Sherlock Holmes story, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. The story really scratches that itch, I have to play some more detective games but only this time, it isn’t with modern technology.

The voice work is also quite good. They made the atmosphere of this game come to life. Every line of dialogue and thoughts are voice acted. Now, there is one thing I’m a bit on the fence about in terms of the voice acting. Maybe it’s because I have been reviewing games for so long and know a bit about developing games as well, but I had times when I felt like some lines were a bit generic.

For example, when you are searching in Holmes’ archives and find the piece you are looking for… It’s always the same line. Sometimes recording more than one line, and randomizing it, helps with the immersion of the game. Otherwise, you are running the risk of it all blending together and making some mechanics feel a bit boring. Or why does doctor Watson nearly always ask where to go next. It’s as if they didn’t record other lines for him. Maybe some fun banter or remark about the location. Like, in the first case, about the well-kept garden. I wouldn’t mind it looping, but something more than “Where to go next, Holmes” and Sherlock not even replying. Since, now, the line feels a bit out of place to me. Thankfully, these moments didn’t bother me too much and are overall quite rare.

I’m well aware that perfection doesn’t exist, and thankfully so. Thankfully, this is the only problem I have with the writing. Very few lines are a bit generic or out of place. And maybe I really notice them because I wanted to review this game and the overall quality is quite high, and I wondered if there was something to critique about the story.

Pop! Here I am!

Visually, this game looks good. The environments are quite detailed and look amazing. But, it isn’t perfect. This game suffers from popping issues sometimes. Especially when you go from a cut scene to gameplay, where some textures just take a bit longer to load, and it just looks weird. I had one especially bad case of this when Holmes’ case book didn’t load the correct texture for like 30 seconds. And I was wondering what the text was on the book.

This happened to me while I was in the “load screen” wagon between two locations. During the loading screen, you can view your case book or enter your thoughts’ menu. And, to be honest, I highly advise you do, since the background scrolling during these wagon scenes don’t always look great. I even saw moments where the background suddenly restarted. And the backgrounds are such lower quality compared to the rest of the game, it’s a shame. Just like the small screen tear issues this game sometimes has when exploring around.

The animations of this game are good as well. They make the game come to life that much more. Yet, sometimes I feel that some characters move a bit too slow or lack a few frames of animation to make it look like the game it’s dipping in frames. But that isn’t the worst issue I have with the visuals and animation. That dubious honor is for the fact that sometimes when exploring, Holmes can “raise up in the air” on an object and when you move the camera just a tiny bit immediately snap down to earth. This happened more than once, but thankfully it didn’t cause any game breaking bugs by for example placing me out of bounds.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the game. I mean, image the amount of work the developers had to put into the visuals. Especially when you are able to chose if you want a first person camera or a third person camera by the press of a button. This goes so seamless it’s a surprise to me that this works so amazingly well.

Also, you can dress up Sherlock Holmes as you want. The amount of different variations is just silly and adds to the impressive visual possibilities that this game has. Dressing up is just one of the mechanics this game has. You’ll need it sometimes to trick a character into talking.

Now, what exactly is it that you do in this game? Well, you investigate a crime and you look at the crime scene for clues. Sometimes you go back to Baker Street to preform experiments or the search in your archive. While you are exploring the locations, you can also talk to suspects to gather more information about the case.

During your research, you’ll find a lot of clues. Some of these clues need to be interacted with. In your notebook, those clues have a special icon so you know that you need to research in your archive or preform certain experiments with them. Also, the task list is quite handy to keep track of what you still should investigate.

During your research, you’ll be able to use your imagniation. This is a sort of “recreation” button for some scenes in the game. Or when a clue is quite hidden, you can use the strong observation skills of Holmes. To avoid these mechanics becoming a needle in a haystack story, you’ll notice those icons at the top right when you need to use those skills.

Another important mechanic is what I call the “connect the logic dots” mechanic. Here you need to connect two clues to form another clue. It reminds me a bit of Time Hollow which has a similar mechanic, but explaining that would spoil parts of that game. When you connected all your loose clue’s, you can try to make sense of them all. Connecting the right dots will lead you to a conclusion. But is it the right one? Who knows? Be sure to think it over more then once. Since, seeing if your theory is correct is a lot of fun to see play out.

Something that this game does a lot better compared to the CSI games is that this game gives you some freedom. You can actually explore the area the crime took place and look for clues. Some of these areas are huge but expertly crafted, making it a breeze to explore them.

The responsive controls make it quite fun to walk around and explore those areas. Thankfully, Holmes has infinite stamina, so you can also run around when you find his walking pace too slow. And when you forget how to control the game, you can just press the two joysticks of your controller to bring up a handy chart of the games’ controls.

There are two things that controls a bit awkward at first and that’s searching in the archives and searching in your case book, but it doesn’t take long before you can get the hang of it when you know that almost every button has a different purpose, and you look at the buttons that are displayed on the screen.

Skipping the skip

One big difference compared to the CSI games is that there is no hint system in this game during your case. If you are stuck, you can’t get any hints from somebody. This is something that some people like and others aren’t really fond of. But, just like the CSI games, this game has mini-games and puzzles.

Now, you can skip most of these puzzles and mini-games by the press of a button. It barely has any influence on the game if you played or skipped the puzzles, but it’s a nice addition that it’s there. When you just want to get on with the game instead of figuring out one stupid puzzle that otherwise would have locked you out the rest of the game. Something that would make it even more perfect is that in the end of the case, you can see how much puzzles you have skipped. That way you can make it an “honor” thing where people who completed the game without skipping any puzzle get an achievement or something.

Speaking about the ending of the cases, you can come to the wrong conclusion. If it has consequences or not, I won’t reveal to not spoil the game, but it’s great to see that you are able to redo it when you want to see the other endings OR want to correct yourself. You can also choose between either reporting the criminal or letting the criminal go. And that’s also everything I wanted to say about that mechanic. It leads to some quite interesting things.

This game isn’t too difficult. The biggest difficulty in this game is when you overlook a clue and reach the wrong conclusion. If you are stuck, I highly advise you to go over your case notebook and imagination. Since, you might have missed a clue. Only once I had to look up the walkthrough, and it turned out that I was doing two things in the wrong order. Apart from one puzzle in the 3rd case, this game doesn’t have any “moon logic” puzzles. The puzzle in the 3rd case isn’t hard, but it takes a while to click with some people what the idea behind the puzzle is.

This game has achievements. And it’s quite a lot of fun to go for the achievements in this game. They don’t add a lot of replay value since this game doesn’t have a lot of replay value. Unless you decide to start speedrunning it to see the endings you missed since you didn’t start over when you choose your moral stance.

Usually in my reviews, I write about the audiovisual presentation right after the visual presentation. But, since I had some more things I wanted to talk about in the visual presentation department, I’m talking about the audiovisual presentation later. And I can be very short about it, it’s nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, the music is good and fits the atmosphere like a glove… But, it doesn’t stand out to me. I find the music a bit to the generic opera side of things, and I would have a hard time matching it with Sherlock Holmes outside the game. I think the main issue is that it doesn’t feel like a “song” or “track” but more like a 10 or 20 second melody that’s repeating in somewhat different tones for 3-ish minutes.

Now, the sound effects are used amazingly well. While exploring, it really adds to the atmosphere sometimes. Really listen while exploring that one area at the end of the 3rd case, and you’ll understand what I mean.

Before I go to the conclusion, I want to talk about the game’s preformance. A big complaint is that the load times are quite lengthy sometimes and honestly, I have to disagree. I have played games with longer load times and the load times in this game didn’t bother me at all. It was the ideal moment for me to sip of my drink or to think about my theory of the case.

The game ran always at quite the stable frame rate (apart from some small moments in cut scenes). But, there is one thing that should have worked differently. I find it a strange decision that when you are waiting for a door to open since the game needs to load the area behind it… You can move away from it. It gave me the impression at first that my input didn’t register. Locking Holmes in place would communicated that a bit better to the player.

Anyways, when you read this article you might think that this is a very flawed game. If you got that impression, you reached the wrong conclusion and didn’t see all the evedince I left in the article. You might want to think it over and you might reach the intended conclusion (which you can always see at the press of a button when you have beaten the case once).

I fell in love with this game. I totally understand why so many people see this game as one of the best Sherlock Holmes games. It does so many things right that it’s still so much fun after 8 years later, this game is still a blast to play through. Of course, the XBOX360 release has some issues. Especially in the visuals department where the preformance can be spotty sometimes and in some places the game really shows its age.

But did those problems bother me? Oh heavens no. I still enjoyed myself and I was quite happy that I was able to pick up this game for quite a cheap price. It also made me quite curious to play the other Sherlock Holmes games in my collection and that’s perfect since my summer break just started.

So, if you enjoy mystery adventure games like Professor Layton, CSI or Ace Attorney AND/OR if you enjoy point-and-click adventure games like Deponia or Broken Sword or Monkey Island… I think you owe it yourself to check out this game. Since the port earlier this year, this game is on so many platforms and quite easy to get so if you want some better preformance, I highly suspect that the PS4 and Switch versions’ll outpreform the XBOX360 version. But hey, the XBOX360 version is still worth playing!

And with that said, I have reached my conclusion about this highly enjoyable game and where shall we go next–

Thank you for reading this article so much. 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.

Game Quicky: Cube Grid (PC – Steam) ~ Rolling Around On The Grid

Steam store pageOfficial website

To be honest, the mobile games that attract me the most are the simple and easy to understand mobile games. When I play a game on my phone, it’s mostly to waste time while waiting for my train or something along those lines. It’s rare that I play bigger mobile games. When the small German indie studio Alchemical reached out to me with a press code for their newly released Steam port of Cube Grib, I was directly interested. So, in this article you’ll read my 100% honest opinion on the game and if I would recommend it or not. Also, this isn’t the studio’s first game, so, feel free to look at their website if you are looking for other mobile games to try out. In any case, let’s start this game quicky while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: I played v1.0.1 for this review.

The good cubes

There is no silly story in this game. This could be seen as a bummer to some people, but this game gets into the meat of the gameplay right away. The tutorial explains the game wonderfully, and you can dive right into the game.

The idea of this game is that you have to flip each colored tile while your cube is in the right color. Moving over a full colored tile flips it to a “square” tile (since there is a square drawn on it with that color). Moving over a “square” tile with the same color, flips it back to a full colored one. Which means, you have to reflip it before you can finish the level.

This game is a textbook example of being difficult to explain in text and better to see in action. Sadly, the trailer on the Steam page gives the wrong impression. There, the tiles turn black and this is something that doesn’t happen in the game. Since, that’s how it works in the mobile version. In this, somewhat enhanced PC-version, there are a few improvements that make this game even more enjoyable. Like more control options and being visual a bit better. Also, there are achievements in this version. Something that a lot of people adore, myself included. I find it fun to get these achievements when I do or reach certain things in games.

Now, the mobile version is free. This version costs 4 bucks. This is something you can look at in both ways. As a negative and a positive. Personally, I think this game is worth the price of admission, but I would love to see more features in the future to make it stand out more compared to the free version on mobile.

The controls are quite responsive. They are easy to learn but sometimes a bit tricky to master. For some reason, I messed up sometimes. But, quite sure that’s on me. Since the unique viewing angle of the stage made me mess up my directions sometimes. And to help with that, this game has an undo button that doesn’t count for one additional move. Sadly, you can only undo one move. So, if you want to undo more than one move, you are out of luck.

Visually, this game looks amazing. This game looks clean and isn’t “loud”. Even when you don’t understand English, you can play this game easily. The (UI) design is that good. In addition to that, the audiovisual presentation is great as well. The sound effects and music add so much to the game’s atmosphere. There are a few minor moments that miss sound effects, especially menu interactions but that’s so minor that it didn’t really bother me.

Speaking of visual presentation, you can choose the cube you play as. The amount of stars you earn at the end of each level are currency in the shop you can access from the main menu. In there, you can exchange your stars for a new cube you can play as. This is nothing more than just a visual change, but it is a nice feature that gives a bit of diversity to this game.

This game introduces the special mechanics in a pleasant way. The difficulty curve of this game is excellent, and I have nothing to remark about it. Each level provides a new challenge and the further you go, the more mechanics you’ll have to keep in mind. For example, around the 20th level you get introduced to the “timed tile”. So, when you touch that tile with the right color, you have a certain amount of moves before it reflips. So, keep these tiles as the last tile, so you can win the level.

The fact that there is no time limit or punishment if you take like “a million” moves to clear the level makes this game such an amazing title to wind down.

The bad cubes

There are a few minor issues in this Steam port. Let me talk about the controller controls first. You can control this game with a controller, and it works really well. But, controlling the menu’s and UI of the game isn’t possible. In the latest update, a controller button was added to rewind a move or restart the stage but going to the home menu isn’t possible.

Speaking of the controls, in during the levels you see a “WASD” lay-out. But the game doesn’t recognize another keyboard lay-out. So, I’m sitting here with my Belgian “AZERTY” lay-out being a bit annoyed that it’s not showing “ZQSD”. But that’s a minor nitpick since the arrow buttons work as well and that’s how I mostly played this game.

Now, there is no hint system in this game. So, if you are stuck in a certain puzzle, you can’t have any hints. Granted, developing a hint system for this type of game is quite tricky. How would you implement a hint system without it making the game quite easy or “play itself”. Here is an idea, just like in Quell, you have to pay a certain amount of coins to either see the full solution or set you on your way. And how would you earn these coins in this game? Well, maybe there is on or two hidden in each stage, and you have to click on a certain tile OR the amount of stars makes you earn a certain amount of coins?

Now, the tutorials in this game are excellent. Nothing to criticize about that. But, if you display a text box over the game, make it so that the game can’t be played in the background, or you can create weird edge cases that might break your game.

Something that’s really missing in this game is a colorblind mode. Take a game like Tetris Attack on the SNES, in this game each tile has a symbol on it, so colorblind people can easily recognize which tile is which color. In this game, each color can have its own symbol and the cube to switch color can be a similar shape, so it’s easy to distinguish. And if possible, make it an option so that people who find the mode annoying can turn it off.

There is one feature I’d love to see in a new update. In Invincible Cleopatra, there is a bar to the side of your screen that shows how close you are to perfecting the level. This is something that isn’t in this game. So, when you beat the level, it’s always waiting to see if you do or don’t get all three stars.

The conclusion

I might have written a lot of negative things about this game or things that are a bit broken/unpolished. Yet, most of these things can be patched out of the game with a (few) updates, making this game even more fun to play.

Maybe I’m a bit harsh on the game, and maybe I should look at this game for what it is. A love project where a small team of developers poured their hart and soul into. And that’s something you can clearly see.

While this game has a few shortcomings, I still would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys casual puzzle games. Or if you are looking for a simple but challenging (puzzle) game to wind down, this game is something for you.

If you are really interested in this game, I’d buy the Steam version. Since, you throw some money to the developers and that might motivate them to create an even better version or create more games. If you are unsure, you can give the mobile version a try and decide then.

In summary, this game is good and with some additional polishing it can become even better. Most of the issues I have with this game aren’t that big and can be implemented without a lot of effort. Overall, I think this game is an enjoyable time waster and I can’t wait to see which improvements the future brings.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much 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.

Score: 80/100

First Impression: House Flipper (PC – Steam) ~ Renovations On Top

Steam store pageOfficial website

Sometimes, you just need to give a game or a concept a chance. You’ll never know if it grows on you or not. When I got a Steam key for House Flipper by being a subscriber to Humble Bundle’s Humble Choice, I was intrigued and interested on how this game is going to work. Are we going to flip the houses ourselves or are we going to run a company that does house flipping? Well, it’s the first. We are going to do the house flipping and decorating. And today, I want to take you on a journey with me to talk about my first impressions of this game in my usual Game Quicky format. Where I first mention the good things, then the bad things to wrap up with a conclusion at the end. Oh, and any comments on my work on this article and/or the game are welcome in the comment section down below.

No need to renovate

In this game, you play as a handy man who cleans and renovates houses. The skill set of your character goes from being a painter, electrician, plumber, interior decorator, carpenter… And your character does everything which for some jobs a (whole) crew does.

Honestly, I knew that I wasn’t too good at interior decorating, and it shows. There are several Christmas levels where you have to decorate the house with a lot of decorations. In a lot of cases, my end result often looks like a quickly thrown together mess. But, here is the strange thing about it. I enjoy decorating the houses.

In terms of difficulty: if you want a challenge, look elsewhere. The focus of this game isn’t in being difficult or providing some challenge. It’s more a sort of sandbox-ish type of game where you have to do certain jobs for people and if you want, improve their houses with for example new furniture or nicer decorated walls. Also, the price you earn goes up depending on the materials used and the amount of upgrades you did to the house. This doesn’t mean that the game isn’t rewarding to play. The before and after pictures you get after a job well done are so enjoyable and rewarding.

There are a lot of things you can do around the house. At the start of the game, you’ll unlock each and every skill by tutorial jobs. After these tutorial jobs, you’ll be able to use these skills in your own house and other jobs. The game can get somewhat repetitive if you don’t use the skill/perk system.

The perk system is a great system that helps you do certain tasks more efficient and faster. Image being able to paint three sections of wall at the same time instead of one. Or being able to upgrade your broom to clean faster (To be honest, I wish cleaning worked similar in the real world. Just heaving to wave a mop in the direction of the mess and voilà). Each skill/category has 9 perks in 3 sections. Each time you preform said skill/category a certain amount of times, you get a skill point with which you can unlock an upgrade. Compare it to the skill tree in Skyrim. This system actually compelled me to 100% each job since that made me get closer to new skill points making the next jobs go more smoothly and faster to do.

The controls of this game work flawlessly. This game also works with a controller, but I honestly prefer the mouse & keyboard combo for this game. I find that I have way better control over the game with the mouse and keyboard compared to the controller.

Visually, this game looks amazing. The game looks somewhat realistic while keeping your typical “game” look. Sadly, there are just a few things that look a bit unrealistic, but these don’t really destroy the illusion too much. Something I really like is how this game takes certain possible phobia’s in consideration. There are cockroaches in this game. But if you suffer from Katsaridaphobia, you can disable them right before you see/hear them for the first time. You can change them in glass shards. And to be honest, I find that the mechanic to clean up the glass shards works better and is a bit easier compared to cockroaches, but that’s such a minor detail.

The music and sound effects in this game are quite relaxing. I feel right at ease and relaxed while I’m cleaning and renovating houses. It fits the game like a glove and the sound effects as well. I wish there were more sound effects for some things like for cleaning, placing wall tiles… But that’s always a delicate balance if you put more sound effects in your game or less. Since, too many sound effects can be overwhelming and make the game “too busy”.

There are two styles of gameplay. You can either do jobs where you have a certain requirement of things that need to do be done. This is sort of the adventure mode of the game. Honestly, I have spent most of my time playing this game with the job system. Since, you can use that access money with the other mode. In this mode, you can play on the housing market and really buy, renovate and sell houses. You always have a list of potential buyers and trying to match a house to their needs with their live reactions at the side is a real interesting puzzle.

Now, if you are interested in this game and want to get even more out of it… Well, you can expand this game with additional DLC. You can access most of the main content without the DLC and I can still tell you that this game is still a lot of fun without the DLC. Every DLC adds a handful of missions, new items and new mechanics and expand the game even more. The only negative I have is that the DLC’s are a tad bit expensive in my opinion. I would find a more fair price to be €9,99 instead of €12,5. But oh well, it’s clear that a lot of effort has been put into them and if you are really enjoying the game, I think the DLC is worth it.

This game auto-saves at the interval you set in the options’ menu. And if you leave in the middle of a job, you can continue it when you boot the game back up again. There are some bugs with the cloud saves, but one of the main forum threads has a solution for that. But, the amount of options and things like that in this game is just amazing. You can set almost anything to your hand and I love it.

Something I also really enjoy in this game as well are the achievements. They add additional challenges and charm to the game. They add some replay value, and they even make some jobs unique. Since, if you only stick to the requirements to finish the job… Some achievements can be easily unlocked by later jobs.

Now, something that is amazing is that this game also supports the Steam Workshop! So, if you don’t find what you are looking for in the base game or DLC… You can visit the workshop and look at the over 16000 items on it.

Renovations needed

Overall, the UI is close to perfect. But, at this moment of writing, the text entered into the tablet has some minor delay. It’s also not easy to remove everything at once. Something like a blinking cursor in the search field when you want to type in it would go a long way. Sadly, there are other minor things like that in the visuals. For example, the long grass at your home stops at a certain line. Near the hedges, actually. Another thing in terms of visuals and UI is that sometimes, it’s a pain finding the exact spot of e.g., dirt on the mini-map. In very rare cases, the task list or the mini map is saying that there is still stuff to do while there actually isn’t.

This game is translated in a lot of languages. I love this fact, since it makes the game a lot more accessible. Maybe, I might be extremely strict on this, since I’m an editor for the Dutch/Flemish translation of WordPress… But, the Dutch translation has various typos and inconsistencies. From wrong use of verbs to not using capitals in menu’s. Thankfully, the English version of this game works extremely well and still, I find it extremely impressive that this large game with so much text is translated in so many languages.

The overall quality of the translation is fine, but I honestly think that in an update, they should let various language experts go over the translation since I think there is a lot that can be polished up and improved. Since, if you aren’t well versed in English and know what everything means or what different objects are called, you might have problems with this game.

Overall, the camera works perfectly. Since, this is a first person game, you have full control over it. Sadly, in some montage sections, the camera dips quite weirdly. These moments are thankfully extremely rare and are mainly caused when you do the assembly in a different order. Knowing what the next steps are or going out of the assembly process and going back in usually fixes these minor camera goofs.

There are some minor things that could be communicated to the player better. The best example I can give is in the painting. In a lot of cases, like in the assembly process, you hear a little sound effect when you are finished with a step. You don’t get that with painting. When your wall is done, you don’t get a small notification in the corner or something. Of course, this might be because of the perk that you don’t waste paint on already painted walls but still… It should have more communication.

Like how tasks disappear way too quickly from the small to-do list on the right side of the screen. Give the player some time to see and realize which task they just completed. The task disappears when the jingle of task completed plays.

But the biggest offender of not communicating is the demolition. It’s not easy to fully destroy a wall and know what’s going to disappear or which pieces are waiting on you to hit with your hammer. I honestly think this should be improved upon since it makes this game a tad bit annoying sometimes. A great start should be unable to build a wall in that spot and have the offending still to destroy bricks flash or turn in red or another color. A similar fix would be helpful if you are unable to find that last dirty spot on the windows. Since, the lighting there sometimes makes it extremely hard to spot sometimes.

Sadly, some mechanics are a bit too finky sometimes. If you buy a shelving unit and try to place items on it without a ladder… Oh boy, it’s no easy to put items higher than eye height. Or that if you pick up tiles, and you want to change to different tiles, you first have to remember to lay the remainder down. Thankfully, as soon as I got “used” or knew my way around these little quirks, these problems didn’t annoy me that much anymore.

The invoice – Conclusion

I never expected this game to be so much fun. It’s an enjoyable relaxing time waster that fans of casual games, simulations should give a shot. I’m quite certain that if you enjoy building aspects of games, you’ll enjoy this game as well.

Now, this game isn’t perfect. There are some things that should be polished up. It’s such a shame seeing this amazing title with some rough edges. Especially when there is so much love and soul put into this game. And it pains me that most of the negatives are almost nitpicks. I think that an update where things are polished up, mechanics are made more consistent with the other mechanics… That would be a very welcome update.

Overall, this game is a relaxing enjoyable game. It’s mindblowing how the game handles so many combinations and mechanics so well. The expansiveness of this game is so broad that I can see myself coming back from time to time after a stressful day at work to wind down. (By doing chores in a way, but hey…) While the game has its problems, some textures, and models looking a bit too out of date… There are a lot of other things like two different game modes that more than make up for it.

It’s quite clear that this game is a passion project by the developers and the love and attention to detail is shown in the game. When writing this first impression/review, I had a really hard time finding actual negatives in this game apart from several technical things that can be improved by a few patches.

I found this game at the perfect moment. I was looking for a more relaxing game I could play to wind down when I’m over stressed or had a busy/hard day at work… And then booting up this game and hearing the calming music and being able to let my creativity flow and create and improve houses… If you got interested in reading this article or looking at gameplay video’s, give it a go.

If you enjoy games like the Sims or building in Minecraft or more relaxing games, I would highly advise this game. While I totally understand that this game isn’t for everyone, it did click with me, and I’m still so surprised that this €20 game has so much value and polish. Now I’m so curious to see where the active developers are going to take this game next.

And with that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much 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.

First Impressions: Persona Q – Shadow Of The Labyrinth (3DS) ~ Crossin’ Over At Least Once

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

When I’m playing console exclusives, I love it when said exclusive does something unique that is difficult to replicate on other consoles. That’s why I love exclusive to the Nintendo (3)DS or Wii U so much. Since, most of these games use the console gimmick extremely well. And today I want to take a look at a game in the Persona series that crosses over with one of my favorite Nintendo handheld exclusive series, Etrian Odyssey. But, that isn’t the only cross-over in this game. Oh no, the cover of this game already spoils that. The characters of Persona 3 and 4 are meeting each other. Are they meeting each other for a tense and amazing adventure or will this an adventure you can skip over? Let’s talk about it while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Crossin’ over at least once

Like I said in the intro, Persona 3 and 4 characters are meeting each other. And you can choose with which cast of characters you start playing. Since, I played a decent chunk of Persona 4 Golden and haven’t played Persona 3, I decided Persona 4 cast to start out with.

So, in this game, your cast somehow gets transported to a different dimension. Something that’s really cool is that the opening of the game depends on the cast you chose and fits the world and themes of the original game like a glove.

As soon as you enter the first dungeon, the storylines merge and are almost the same. In the first dungeon themed after Alice in Wonderland, you meet two strange characters named Zen and Rei. Both have amnesia both know that the dungeon is extremely dangerous. It doesn’t take long before they join your party to explore this strange world.

A world where the normal Persona rules are somewhat flipped on their head. Now, the hero lost their Joker ability which caused them to wield any Persona and now everybody has the same unique additional ability. They all can wield a 2nd Persona that they can choose and change.

On top of that, in this strange world, there are several dungeons. The main hub of the game is a school where a strange clock tower is standing in the middle of the courtyard. What is that clock tower doing there, and how can they unlock it? That’s what are heroes are trying to find out.

Explaining more about the story is bordering on spoiling parts of the game. So, if I have sold you on the game, I think you should take a look at it. Now, you don’t need to have played ANY Persona before jumping into this one but some jokes, references, and story bits will go over your head if you haven’t played Persona before. So, yes, this game is extremely welcome to veterans and newcomers.

Now, the voice talent of in this game is beyond amazing. Listing off all the voice actors and their credits would make this article not only go off track quite fast but also get extremely lengthy. The excellent voice acting make the story even more enjoyable. I especially love the little voice clips in the dungeon and during fights since they give the game so much more character. I love it in Etrian Odyssey and I love it here.

Let’s draw that map

If you have played any Persona game before, you’ll feel right at home in this game. It’s your typical dungeon crawler with themed dungeons with a lot of RPG mechanics. And if you have played any Etrian Odyssey games, you’ll feel right at home as well.

Just like Persona 5 Strikers was the perfect mix between hack-and-slash and the Persona formula, this game is the perfect mix between Etrian Odyssey and Persona.

Something that’s quite unique in Etrian Odyssey is that it’s a dungeon crawler where you have to draw your own map to some degree. The game draws out where you walk automatically, but you have to draw where the walls are, place the location of doors, treasure boxes, traps… You even have to take notes.

FOE’s return in this game as well. And let me tell you, in this game they aren’t a pushover. I really advise you to avoid them at all costs. FOE’s are huge monsters which roam around the dungeon on a set path. Each FOE has their pattern and quirks, and sometimes you have to manipulate them to solve an environment puzzle.

The FOE’s are the only enemies you’ll see roam around on the bottom screen map. All the other enemies are encountered by exploring the dungeon. Like in Etrian Odyssey, you have a counter at the bottom left of the top screen that indicates how close you are to a battle. Battles in this game are turn-based. Something that really annoyed me in Etrian Odyssey is the MP management. For some characters, it is too easy to run out of MP and be useless. Unless you either heal that MP with the rare and/or finite amount of times you can heal that in the dungeon or their MP is just drained way too easily.

In this game, a solution to that problem has been found. In this game, each character that has a second Persona equipped, gets a low but certain amount of MP at the start of each battle. And not only that, when you have a critical hit OR hit the weak spot of an enemy, the next round the character won’t use MP. And you can chain this in a combo if you learn the weak spots of each enemy. So, it’s quite helpful to learn who is weak against what and create the best team and couple them with the best Persona’s.

The difficulty curve of this game is somewhat unforgiving. There is no auto-saving in this game when you reach a game over, you’ll have to restart with the last save. Thankfully, you can lower the difficulty at any time in the hub if you are stuck at a hard enemy or boss unless you have chosen the highest difficulty.

In this article, I have mentioned a Persona several times. Allow me to explain this to people who don’t know what Persona is. Depending on the Persona game, the theme is a bit different, but basically it’s a monster created out of strong emotions that’s bonded in a way to somebody. This bond allows them to use special abilities and magic during battle. You can read and discover more about the concept on the Persona wiki but beware spoilers on that page.

Risk and reward systems

This game isn’t easy, even on the lower difficulty settings. You really have to think on your actions and be mindful on what you are doing.

Should I save my money since the higher your level, the higher the healing costs become OR should I buy this strong weapon/armor? It’s just an example of the thought you have to put into this game. This game nails that fine balancing act of being challenging and rewarding.

At the end of the first dungeon, you meet the other cast of characters. This doubles the amount of useable characters in this game. And this makes this game very replayable to a certain degree. While the lay-outs don’t change of the dungeons, you can only carry five characters in a dungeon. And that means that you can make each playthrough of this game quite different.

Now, something I really miss from the Etrian Odyssey games that isn’t in this game is the simple fact that you can’t floor hop. Remember when you almost finished the whole map in Etrian Odyssey and you found the entrance and exit, so you can warp to that floor’s entrance/exit almost immediately? That isn’t present in this game. On the other hand, this game has a mechanic I wished was in more Etrian Odyssey games. You can choose the color of the elements you place on the map. So, you have way more options in placing things on the map making it a lot easier to mark for example certain traps or moving tiles.

Being able to draw the map myself is one of the biggest selling points to me of the Etrian Odyssey games. In a way, you draw a part of the UI. Speaking of which, the UI in this game is extremely solid. It took me no time at all to learn the controls of this game and get going. The fact that this game also has amazing visual presentation is great as well.

The attention to detail is superb and gives the game such a great atmosphere. Visually, this game is eye candy to me. To such a degree, that when I tried this game with the battle animations disabled in the option menu, I felt that this game was missing something. While I totally understand that the game and battle system might be a bit too slow with them on for some people, I love how accessible this game is with the option menu.

Not only the visual presentation and animations are amazing, but the soundtrack is on point. It hits all those strong beats you are used to in a Persona game. It also reminded me sometimes of the Etrian Odyssey games and I got nostalgic sometimes.

Something to be wary of is that the Nintendo 3DS eShop is closing in the really near future. This game has some DLC as well, expanding some features. Mostly, they add some optional additional Persona’s or voice packs. So, if you are interested in this game and want all the content… But warned that you have until late August 2022 to do it.

And with that said, I have said everything about this game I wanted to say about this game for now. If you enjoy dungeon crawlers, Persona, RPG’s and/or Etrian Odyssey, I urge you to give this game a chance. To be honest, I fell in love with this game and all it quirks. While this game isn’t for everybody and certainly the difficulty might turn some people off, I have a hard time to say anything negative about this game.

This game is a must-play for every Persona and Etrian Odyssey fan in my opinion. I can’t wait to see where this game is going next, and I’m also quite hyped that this game has a sequel Persona Q 2 – New Cinema. Which I might review in the future. But for now, I have the original to beat here. So, I have to wrap up this article, publish it and after that I can get back right into this game trying to finish it.

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