First Impression: Final Fantasy X (PS2) ~ Soccer under water.

Wikipedia entry

So, my vacation recently started, and I felt like playing some games I have in my collection for years but haven’t really played. One of these games is Final Fantasy X on the PS2. A game I started playing this year, but I haven’t gotten the time to start really playing this game. I was even afraid in 2019 that I wouldn’t be able to start playing these two games. But now I have a whole summer to play games, and work inside my apartment. So, was it a good idea to pick Final Fantasy 10 to play during this holiday, or should I start looking for another game? Well, let’s find out together in this first impression article if I think it’s worth our time or if we should skip this game for another one. While I invite you, the reader, to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. And no, it’s a coincidence that I pick this RPG with fantasy soccer elements on the day that the final of the European Championship is being played. (That little bit would have worked, if only I was able to finish the article on that day.)

Blitz soccer under water

While writing this article, I found out that this game got an remaster way back in 2016. But, when I was able to pick up this game, and it’s sequel for €5 in my local game store second hand… Well, let’s just say I quickly decided to play the originals. Now that I’m admitting things, I think it’s a good thing to also “admit” or rather inform my readers that I haven’t played a lot of games in the Final Fantasy series. If my memory serves me correctly, this is one of the first Final Fantasy games I really started playing in-depth. I have started playing Final Fantasy 7 and other Final Fantasy titles, but for some unknown reason, I didn’t continue playing them.

Anyway, enough introductory rambling. It’s time to explain the (start) of the story of this game. So, this game opens with Tidus, a blitzball player from Zanarkand who is playing in a memorial cup. This memorial cup is to honor his father, a legendary player who went missing 10 years ago. The memorial cup for Jecht (Tidus’ father) has barely started and a big monster attacks the metropolis. Together with Auron, our main character Tidus is swept away. Who is Auron? Well, he is somebody who was looking after Tidus right after his father went missing and Tidus’ mother died.

Now, where is our Tidus swept away to? To Spira. A world where he barely knows the customs and languages. There, Tidus learns that Zanarkand has been destroyed over 1000 years ago by a being named Sin. And not only that, it turns out the Zanarkand is a holy land.

It doesn’t take long before Tidus’ blitzball skills are discovered by the locals and he enters a tournament. There, he meets various characters like the summoner Yuna. Together with her crew, Yuna is taking a pilgrimage to Zanarkand to destroy Sin. And you can bet on it that Tidus’ joins Yuna’s crew since he wants answers.

A lot of this game is voice acted. If you google this game together with “voice acting”, you get a LOT of varied opinions. From it being the worst they ever heard to being good. Personally, I think the voice acting is a bit on the weak side. I think the biggest issue is the pacing and delivery of the lines. Now, what I mean here is that the delivery of the English lines doesn’t always match the actions on screen. For example, there is a scene where you just enter a village, and you get stopped to get the prayer explained. But, there is a strange pause between the “Oh right, hold up” line and the character actually pulling you aside.

Overall, the writing so far is decent. All the unknown customs and languages are as confusing to us players then they are to our main character. If only the English voice acting was a bit more fine-tuned to give the story a bit more impact, a bit more “umphf” you know. Since there are moments that really have great voice acting, but it isn’t consistent, and it feels unpolished and a tad bit rushed.

Now, I could keep talking about the voice acting and story for a while but since I haven’t beaten the game yet, I think I’ll wait to talk about it more in depth for when I have finished this game and/or I have finished the sequel. Since then, I’ll have a way more clear picture on what the whole game and if it’s really that bad that the internet is actually saying. The only thing I want to say for now is that after 5 hours of playing, this game is a tad bit slow on the story side.

It’s battle time

This game is at its core an RPG. You explore the world while you have random battles with enemies to increase your stats. Besides that, you have a whole blitzball game to play as well. Currently, I haven’t played enough of the game to comment too in depth about blitzball. So, I’m going to focus mainly on the RPG gameplay. The battle system in this game your classic turn based affair. So, that means that if you have played RPG’s before, it won’t take you long before you get into this one.

One of the unique mechanics in this game is the Sphere Grid. I could try and explain it but I found that the Final Fantasy wiki has an excellent explanation. So, props to the writer(s) of that section of the wiki since it’s one of the best explanations of this interesting and fun to play with mechanic I was able to find.

At the end of each battle every party member that took at least one full turn earns AP. Characters who are switched out during their first turn, KO’d, or petrified at the end of the battle will not gain AP. If the player defeats the enemy using an aeon, then Yuna will be treated as having taken a turn even if she only summoned.

When enough AP is earned, the character gains a Sphere Level (“S.Lv“). The amount of AP needed to generate Sphere Levels increases progressively until the character has acquired 101 S.LV, after which an additional Sphere Level will always require 22,000 AP. When moving about the Sphere Grid, the character may move one node forward for each S.LV they have. The player does not need to activate a node to pass by it. Regardless of activation, when the player passes a node, a colored band connects their current node to the node they left to mark their path on the grid. Moving across previously connected paths allows the character to move four nodes for every S.LV they have.

Each character’s starting location on the grid indicates their strengths and weaknesses based on the variety of nodes in their section, though the player can choose to take the character down a different path using Key Spheres. The character-specific sections merge at certain points, allowing a character to take another’s path. The character-specific sections are separated by locked nodes, which become empty nodes once opened, allowing free movement. Ultimately, every node on the Sphere Grid may be accessed by every character.

https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Sphere_Grid

The Sphere Grid makes the combat even more interesting. Something that this game does extremely well is teaching the mechanics and the strategies in battles to the player. It doesn’t overwhelm you with all the mechanics of this game in one go, but it steadily builds up until every mechanic has been covered. While I love RPG’s, I always have a hard time getting into the deeper meta of the game and I barely remember several things like what’s effective against what. Thankfully, in the towns, there is a station where you can re-read every tutorial from the game to refresh your memory. I love touches like these in games since it makes the game more accessible whilst the difficulty doesn’t suffer.

Speaking about difficulty, since you have full control over the Sphere Grid, you can somewhat decide that for yourself. I think this is an excellent idea how to handle difficulty. This way more veteran players can make the game more difficult by not unlocking everything on the grid while for more casual players, the game can become “easier” by unlocking the whole grid.

Something that really surprised me is the fact you can control Tidus via the D-pad. I honestly expected that since this game is on the PS2, only the joystick would move him. But that isn’t the case. You can control him with both. Overall, the controls of this game are quite well done. They are responsive and intuitive. Even when I put the game down for several months in February and picked it back up for this summer vacation, I was able to get the hang of the controls extremely quickly.

Also, the small map/radar helps quite a lot while exploring the area’s you come across. The yellow arrow is you and the red arrow is the next major objective. I’m really curious how that’s going to work when I’m further in the game and I hope it doesn’t take away the joy of trying to find the way to your next location. Since sometimes it’s a lot of fun, getting lost in the RPG world. That’s why I love playing games like Dragon Quest.

A bit stiff

I’m not that picky when it comes to the visuals of a game. I don’t mind if a game hasn’t the best visuals or looks from yesteryear, what matters to me is that the visual presentation is consistent with a nice art style that isn’t too hard on the eyes, fits the theme and atmosphere of game and helps me to pull me into the game. But, there are something’s in this game I want to talk about.

While overall, the visual presentation of this game looks quite good, I do notice some visual hiccups here and there. I honestly can’t tell if that’s because of the composite switch I’m using, my PS2 disc or something else, but I have noticed some visual issues. In one cutscene, you could see how Tidus’ hair is modeled, since it blurred out the background on the empty spots.

Maybe I notice these imperfections more easily since I have been reviewing games for over 11 years now and I might have developed an eye for it. But, there are some things that I really don’t like in terms of animation for this game. For example, I find the somewhat slow run cycle of Tidus so unnatural, it’s honestly almost comical in my opinion. Also, I have seen some strange movements from Yuna during her first cutscenes.

It’s a real shame, since this there is a lot that this game does right in terms of the visual presentation. The battle animations look amazing, and I have seen environments that still hold up in my opinion. But, it’s a bit stiff and rough on some edges. Things that could have been patched out if the game was to release in the modern gaming industry.

Now that I have talked about the visual presentation, I think it’s high time I also talk about the audiovisual presentation. Let’s first talk about the music. The orchestral soundtrack of this game has Final Fantasy written all over it. The classic victory tune and the hints to the original theme in the theme of this game are excellent. When I’m listening to game soundtracks, I rarely skip Final Fantasy soundtracks and this game is one of them. Great soundtrack!

That also goes for the audio in this game. There are a lot of ambient sound effects that pull you more into the atmosphere of the visual design. There were some moments where I felt that some additional sound effects could have helped… like with a silent waterfall. But then again, it might run the excellent sound mixing this game has going on… So yeah.

Now, I want to mention a nitpick. There isn’t a way to quickly skip long animations and/or cutscenes. So, yeah. That’s quite annoying if you are in a rush to get somewhere since you got a game over, and you haven’t manually saved at a save stone in a while. Thankfully, I’m that kind of player who saves at every opportunity I can, just in case…

The final thing I want to touch upon in this first impression is the camera. All in all, the camera in this game is good, but sometimes it doesn’t follow the main player well enough and the main character almost goes off-screen before the camera angle switches. Thankfully, the map helps in these moments, but hey, it could have been better.

Overall, I’m quite happy that I’m giving this game a chance during my summer vacation break. While this game is showing its age in the visual department and that complaint is mostly fixed with the remaster… I do still enjoy playing the original version of the game. The only thing that really bothers me is the mediocre voice acting, which breaks some tension of the story. But, thankfully, it’s great voice practice for me since my folk theater group is restarting after the… let’s just say… the “covid-break”. So, I can try to act it out myself how I would have preformed that line.

While I could have gone more in depth on certain aspects of this game, I’m going to keep that for the review when I have fully beaten this game. I’m really curious if certain opinions are going to change. And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much 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 one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Android Games – Let’s start playing on my phone again.

It has been quite some time since I wrote an article with short reviews of Android games, has it not? Lately, I have been focussing on the bigger games and I haven’t given the smaller games some time to shine on my blog. Also, when I was talking about a smaller game, I wrote a longer article on it instead of a short review. But, since I’m currently working on bigger articles and I didn’t want to skip this week, I decided I wanted to bring this series back and start talking about a few smaller games I have been playing on my phone lately. So, let’s start talking about smaller Android games and let’s take a quick look if they are worth your time/money. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the games and/or the content of this article.

ProgressBar95

Steam versionAndroid version

For those who don’t know, I’m 28 years old, and I also have a day job. This day job is being an IT admin in a big art secondary school (high school for some) here in Belgium. My work days are filled with solving problems that teachers and students have, improving our IT infrastructure, developing our website… Apart from that, I’m also a big fan of old tech and I love messing around with old computers and technology.

So, when I came across ProgressBar95 on the app store, I downloaded the game right away. And I fell in love with it right away. The game keeps true to its tagline that this game is a “hypercasual UI game”. The main idea of this game is that you are a progress bar that needs to catch dropping squares to make the progress bar progress. Blue and light blue are good ones, orange are errors but still help you in progress. Pink detracts from your progress bar, so you can get rid of orange squares if you want.

Depending on how well you do, the amount of points you get to unlock various upgrades to your computer. The higher your level, the more difficult this game becomes and the more points you can earn. This game also works with lives, but if you run out of lives, you don’t have to wait a certain amount of time for them to recharge and try the game again.

So, the interface of this game is top-notch. It nails the ascetic of being a computer amazingly. For example, to toggle sound on or off, you can press the sound icon in the bottom right of the computer. If you click the “EN” of the language toolbar, you can switch languages. It also has a colorblind mode, cloud saving, multiple game modes and one of the best ways to handle microtransactions I have seen.

The different gameplay modes I have played so far is a sort infinite runner Wolfenstein game and a “dodge the red numbers and get to the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet”-game. They add so much variety to the game and I love going between them if I’m bored with one game mode.

The biggest recommendation I would give to you is that you buy the extremely cheap “no-ads” package. Overall, the ads aren’t annoying but the game improves so much without forced ads. Now, if you look at the whole shop, you might think that this game is a “pay-to-win” or a money sink. But, no. You can pay to unlock all other levels but 99% of the stuff in the store can be earned easily in-game by winning levels or doing side quests.

It’s clear that this game has a lot of love put into it and I have a hard time finding anything negative about this game. Apart from this game being extremely niche and the game being a little boring for extend playthroughs… But yeah, I honestly would recommend this game to all my other retro gamers or people who are into computer science. It’s an amazing and refreshing experience.

Score: 5/5.

Word Lanes

Android store

So, when I’m in a waiting room or have some time to kill, I love playing small games. Especially when they are puzzle games like word searches or connect the dots to give two examples.

In Word Lanes, you are presented with a grid of letters, and you have to find all the words that fit the clues at the top. Each letter can only be used once and the letters have to connect horizontally or vertically to be used in a word.

This game is rather relaxing, and it’s a great way for me to unwind. I also love how the game is fully translated into my native language. The only complaint I have about that is the fact that as a Belgian person, I always have to struggle when the hint is talking about something from the Netherlands. But, I always report them with a handy report feature after you solved a clue. With this report feature you can report typo’s, wrong clues and things like that.

I’m also on the fence about the microtransactions. You earn coins to use the hint features after beating a level, but I feel I always don’t have enough. Thankfully, you have these daily rewards and saving them up is easy then. Honestly, I just think that the prices of the power-ups are a tad bit too high.

But hey, that’s a minor complaint. Since this game has so much enjoyment to offer and the ads aren’t THAT intrusive and only play between levels. Also, quite frequently, I have an option where the ads are disabled for one day. This is amazing and actually makes me consider buying the “no ads” package since I got a free trial.

Score: 4/5

Reigns

Android store

Way back in 2017, I wrote an article about Questr. A game that has some “Tinder” style gameplay while being a questing game. Now, that game was more about adventuring while you created your party with a sort of Tinder app. In this game, the main feature of Tinder of swiping left to reject or right to approve, is set into a “choose your own adventure” game.

Reigns is published by DeveloperDigital and is so close to be amazing, it’s painful. The gameplay is quite addictive, and I love taking decisions as an immortal king on how my kingdom should progress. The atmosphere, sound effects, music and visual design is amazing. It really pulls you into the game and I love playing the game but…

It’s way too easy to take a decision. It’s too sensitive. I had several moments where I was choosing between two options and just because I hit the edge of one side a bit too much, the game decided for me. And not only that, my phone doesn’t have physical buttons anymore and quite often, I had the game deciding for me just because I swiped down to see the time or see my latest notification.

There is also no “message log”. So, when you put the game down for a moment, you can’t see the history of what happened. And if I want to change the options during gameplay, though luck. The menu only appears when see the progress between kings.

This game has a lot of amazing elements like having to balance your four powers and the various twists and turns certain decisions and pathways can take, but it has various rough edges, I fell so mixed about this game. Maybe the PC version of the game is better, but I feel like this game works best as a mobile game. But, I feel like the mobile version just got a few rough edges. For example, I had to look up a way to reset your progress in the game. It turns out you have to hold two fingers on to have the reset screen to show up.

Yet, I advise people who enjoy adventure games to give this game a go. But be warned, the mobile version has some rough edges. But, for the low asking price of this game and the amount of content in this game, I can say for a fact there is a LOT worse out there. And I’m also so glad that this amazing concept got a few sequels as well… So, I know what to play next on my phone.

Score: 3.5/5

Wrapping up

I’m so glad that I gave this format another go and revived it. It allowed me to talk about three Android games I wanted to showcase on my blog, but I didn’t have the time for or wasn’t able to write a good enough “long” article about. I think I’ll revisit this format more often in the future and maybe also use it when I play small games on Steam, Switch or other platforms.

Then again, with my busy lifestyle and the backlog of games I still want to cover, I can’t promise how frequent I’ll write articles like these. I also challenged myself to be brief and short in this article and I had the urge to keep writing about these three games. So, if you want a more in-depth article about one of these games, let me know in the comments.

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

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

Persona5StrikersWikipedia’s entry – Nintendo.com microsite

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

Let’s steal hearts

p5strikers3

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

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

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

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

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

RPG or Warriors?

p5strikers2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget to save

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Blood: Fresh Supply (PC – Steam) ~ He lives AGAIN.

Blood_logoWikipedia entry – Steam linkSteam link
The Build Engine. One of the biggest game engines ever created in 3D shooter history. Three landmark titles have been created in that engine called Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior and today’s topic: Blood. Back in the day, I used to download a lot of old archived shareware or demo versions of old DOS games. In one of these adventures, I downloaded the demo for the legendary Blood, and I was hooked. At the time, things like Steam weren’t what they are today and I still was in secondary school (high school for you Americans) and too young to start a holiday job. Then, on one summer Steam sale, I found this game for a rather cheap price and I thought: “Why not.”. So, I bought the game for €1 and moved on with my day. Then, COVID-19 happened last year, and I was looking through my game library to play after work. I booted up Blood, and it got my top 10 games of 2020 list. Why did I give this game a spot on my top 10 games list? What did I like so much about this game to place it on that list? Let’s find out together while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts/opinions on the content of the article and/or the game.

He lives AGAIN

Blood 1In this game, you take on the role of Caleb. Caleb has a reputation for being a merciless gunfighter from the Midwest. Caleb is a servant of the god Tchernobog and his minions called ‘The Cabal’. Now, for some reason, our “friendly” god kills Caleb and his fellow chosen for whatever reason and dumps Caleb in a grave. Caleb rises up from his grave several years later, and he is looking for vengeance of course.

Like your typical old school 3D shooters, the story isn’t the main focus of this game. Most of the story in this game is told through cutscenes at the start and end of a chapter and the environment that you are going through. Speaking about which, there is are  a lot of moments like: you start on the train you that you crashed in the previous level. The whole game feels interconnected due to small details like that.

There are a few cutscenes in the game that enhance the story by a little. The reason I’m saying only a little is that the total runtime of these cutscenes is give or take only 5 minutes. Which is a shame, since the cutscenes really added to the atmosphere of the game. On the other hand, I think that if this game had more cutscenes, it would overpower the gameplay and the environmental story telling.

There is voice acting in this game. Of course, you have your typical enemy shouting that is as immersive as the cowboy shouting from Outlaws. You also have your wise-cracking main character Caleb voiced by Stephan Weyte. Stephan also did voice work for one of my favorite edutainment companies Humongous Entertainment. He voiced several side characters in the Pajama Sam and Freddi Fish games. Before I start rambling about unrelated things for this review, I have to say that Stephan killed it with his performance in this game. His delivery is extremely memorable, and I love his voice work for this game. A fun fact is that the voice acting for our evil god has been done by the executive producer Jace Hall.

Should you play Blood for the story? Oh, heavens no. Don’t misunderstand me here, the story of this game is fine, but it is far from the best story you can experience in a shooter. The story is there to set the mood and set up the atmosphere of this game and to help you immerse yourself in the game. But, nothing more nothing less.

Now, if we check on the Blood Wiki on the amount of different versions and ports that this game got we learn that there are two versions of this game on Steam. You have Blood – Fresh Supply and Blood – One Unit Whole Blood. At the moment of writing, the “One Unit Whole Blood” version has been removed from Steam and the “Fresh Supply” version is still up for sale. I found a nice forum post about the biggest differences on the GOG.com forums between the two versions. As the title suggests, I played Fresh Supply for this review.

Crazy cultists

Blood 3I don’t think I have to explain what you have to do in old school 3D shooter games. You have to fight various enemies, find keys to open doors, do some platforming and solve some puzzles. Personally, I compare this game in a way to games like Heretic and Duke Nukem 3D. It’s an old school 3D shooter with amazing weapons and power ups to aid you in your battle against your enemies. There are a lot of different enemies with their own attack sound, strengths, and weaknesses.

Most of the weapons in this game has a secondary fire mode. For example, the double barred shotgun secondary fire shoots both bullets at once or the Tommy gun’s second fire let out a burst of bullets where you swing the weapon back and forth. You can even use one weapon as a turret and another weapon is a voodoo doll.

But the most iconic weapon in Blood is the dynamite. There are big differences in terms of the dynamite you can use. You have your normal dynamite, proximity, and dynamite you can remotely detonate. Depending on the chosen difficulty, the skill to use your weapons and especially dynamite is essential to your survival. I can’t count how many times I had to resort to dynamite to “thin out the herd”.

Speaking about the difficulty, if you aren’t too familiar with all Blood’s mechanics and secrets and different routes, I don’t advise the higher difficulty settings. I have to admit that I’m not the most skilled player when it comes to shooters and I had an extremely hard time with the medium setting. Get used to the mechanics of this game before you play on the highest difficulty settings and thank me later. The game is otherwise too frustrating for newcomers.

Earlier, I said that this game feels quite interconnected due to the level design. That start of the level represents the previous level. Most of the levels have a sort of linear design. You have to backtrack quite rarely. Yet, I found myself stuck in a few levels and the map system, while impressive, was far from helpful. Now, in terms of map systems, I think I might be spoiled by the more modern design methods where the key door locations are marked on your map.

Sadly enough, there are some moments that the level design wasn’t the best. For example, I found one or two spots where you can get soft locked. But more annoyingly, I found some monster rooms quite annoying since the exit gets locked, and you have to go switch hunt. I think these moments could have benefitted from Caleb saying: “Where is the switch” when interacting with the door.

This game is controlled through mouse and keyboard. While this game has controller support, I only played this game through mouse and keyboard. I didn’t have any problems with the controls and felt they worked amazingly. After a minor bit of tweaking to fit the AZERTY lay-out better that we use here in Belgium, I was able to master the responsive controls.

Visually, this game still looks fine. The visual improvements you can choose to either enable or disable are a great way to choose between the vanilla textures and the newer “more modern” visuals. Of course, this game really shows its age in the visual department but, that isn’t a bad thing for this game. I still find that the visual atmosphere is created amazingly, and I feel that the world still feels somewhat real and alive.

Something that truly impressed me are the animations. The animations in this game are a masterclass in how animations should look in shooter games. Enemies that get shot in the legs crawl towards you and keep shooting, enemies set on fire with a flare run around crazily… And that are just two examples.

Very rarely, I found some visual glitches. In one level there was some Z-fighting with a pillar switch. (Z-Fighting is when two textures overlap and the game can’t decide which one to show, so it flickers in between them.) In some spots, the shells of the Tommy gun vanished. These moments were thankfully rare and didn’t impact gameplay too much.

Dynamite

Blood 2The sound design in this game is extremely important. If you don’t pay attention to the well crafted sound effects, you might miss some important enemy cues especially from the zombies. Since those don’t die right away from the weaker weapons. So, yeah, heard of hearing and deaf people are disavantaged when it comes to this game.

Sadly enough, the soundtrack could have been better. I feel that it’s too short and for some reason, it bugged out during my playthrough and it didn’t always play. While I was writing this section of the review, I was listening to the soundtrack on YouTube and I heard some tracks I haven’t heard in the game. While the music in itself is quite good and adds a lot to the atmosphere but it being only around 30 minutes, I felt that the soundtrack is too short for the game’s length.

This game has the perfect length for a shooter game like this. This game packs all the expansion packs so that means that a casual playthrough might take you around 10-ish hours. If you want to go for 100% you might be able to double that. But, this game gets so much more challenging and rewarding when you play it on higher difficulty settings so you might be able to get a lot more hours out of it than that.

Now, there is one thing in terms of the UI I really didn’t like. That’s the weapon wheel / ammo system. Let me explain. In the bottom center, you can see how much ammo you have for your weapons. Just like in other shooters from that time period, you have no idea which number corresponds with which weapon. It still shows “0″ even when you don’t have that weapon. The weapon wheel also doesn’t really show well to which weapon it’s going to switch since, it’s a wheel. When you pass the last weapon, it goes back to the first.

There is one thing I feel that the game totally dropped the ball on. And that’s the saving system. It’s not that the saving system doesn’t work, but it’s extremely bare bones. This game uses manual saving. There is no checkpoint saves when you enter a new level, but that isn’t such a big problem. I don’t mind manually saving once in a while I enter a new level or passed a difficult section. What I do mind is that the load system doesn’t give you ANY information in which level the save is. On top of that, you only have a limited amount of save slots and no visual information when you successfully saved the game. I worked around it by naming my saves with the level name like: “E1M3” (Episode 1 Map 3) and some additional info, but it shouldn’t be such a pain. Thankfully, we have a way better system now-a-days.

A minor thing that I really didn’t like in this game is the respawn mechanic. Of course, when you die, you are going to respawn at the start of the level with only your pitchfork. No problem there. But, the issue is in my opinion that the reloading just take a bit too long for my liking. It’s always faster to load your save from the pause menu then waiting on the game to respawn you. It might also save you some frustration since “pitchfork starting” isn’t always the most enjoyable way to play some levels.

This game also has Steam Achievements. These were a whole lot of fun to try and get. After I had beaten the game, I got 6 out of the 20 achievements. I could have gotten more but for some reason, my game glitched out and some achievements are still locked. Oh well, all the more reason for me to play through the game again at a later date.

There is quite a long list of references in this game. While I was 5 years old at the time of the original release, I had to admit I was able to pick up on several references. Maybe my love for retro games and retro media might have helped me out quite a lot there.

Oh, before I forget, there is a multiplayer mode in this game. I’m sorry but I haven’t played it at all so I’m not going to comment on it. But, from what I have read and seen, you both have your typical death match gameplay and a way to play through the campaign in a co-op fashion. That is sounding quite interesting for when I can let friends come over again.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for me to wrap up this review. I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game and before I ramble on and on, I’m going to wrap up this article in a neat conclusion like I usually do for my review articles.

Conclusion time

The good:

+ Amazing shooter with replay value.

+ Easy to learn but oh so difficult to master.

+ Still good looking after all these years.

+ Amazing audio design.

+ …

The bad:

-The save and load system isn’t the best.

-The weapon wheel is a bit broken.

-Some softlocks / switch hunting moments.

Final thoughts:

Blood is a game that came out in 1997. This game is almost 25 years old and I have to say that this game still holds up amazingly well. The visual improvements that the Fresh Supply remake brings to the table are amazing. It gives a breath of fresh air in an already amazing game.

While I was researching this game, I found several video’s by one of my favorite YouTubers Civvie11. The release of this remake wasn’t the best. Thankfully, through the years, the game got various patches and updates that improved the game quite a lot to the point that I barely noticed the points that Civvie gave in his original “Blood: Fresh Supply is broken” video.

Apart from some flaws, this game holds up amazingly well. I knew that Blood had a high reputation when I started playing it and I was so happy when the game didn’t dissapoint me at all. Of course, I encountered some jank because this game isn’t the newest but that’s to be expected.

Would I recommend this game to people who enjoy shooters? Absolutely. This game gets an easy recommendation from me. The game costs only 8,2€ here and let me tell you, you can play a lot worse games for that price. The few issues this game have can be taken care off and they won’t hinder your playthrough too much. Is Blood one of the best retro game shooters? Easy answer, yes. Yes, it is. It’s as good as the original Doom, Heretic, Hexen, Duke Nukem and if you enjoy retro games and especially shooters it should be a crime to not at least give this game a try.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. 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 and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 95 / 100

Interview with GameChuck after “SpeedLimit” release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First Impression: G String (PC – Steam) ~ Personal Robots Got Too Real

gstringSteam pageOfficial website of publisher

I won’t blame you if you look at the title of this game and wonder what I’m going to talk about today. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about that sort of adult game and I hope that the SEO won’t bring in that kind of traffic either. Today we are going to talk about a game named “G String” developed Eyaura. This game started life as a Half Life 2 mod just like another game “The Stanley ParableI took a look at in the past. Now, the Stanley Parable is an amazing game in terms of story telling in games so I have high expectations for this game. Is this standalone game going to live up to it’s expectations or is this game going to fail and disappear in SEO-hell with it’s name? Let’s take an 100% honest look at this game with the developer provided press code I got for this game and let’s talk about my opinion. Meanwhile, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editornal note: The latest patch for this game has been released on December 23th.

Personal Robots Got Too Real

human_waste60040This game is a passion project of the developer Eyaura who worked on this game for the past 13 years. According to the press kit, this game is 10-ish hours long and is a single player Cyberpunk FPS game that aims to envoke the feel of old science fiction films from the ’70 – ’90.

In this game, you take on the role of a young Korean girl named Myo Hyori. After a sudden earthquake, she is able to escape in her standard issue biosuit into the dystopian world. During your exploration, you learn more and more about your missing parents, what happened to the world and the personal robots and much more. 

Due to the nationality of the character, I think this game takes place in Korea. The reason I mention this is because there is voice acting in this game. Dialogue between characters is in English but the suit talks to Myo in another language. I’m not 100% sure but I think it’s in Japanese but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in Korean since the main character is Korean. 

The voice acting is decent and adds a lot to the world building, tension and atmosphere of the game. But, on several occasions, the suit and a character were talking at the same time which made it a bit annoying to follow the voice acting. Thankfully, there are subtitles, so I was able to read what was being said. 

During this adventure, you go through various locations. You also fight various enemies like soldiers and personal robots. You also meet various other characters that all play a vital part in the story. On the store page for this game, there is a beefy “Quick Reference” guide that contains quite a lot of lore and story details. Don’t read that if you want to go in the game blind. Yet, if you enjoyed this game, I would highly advise you to read through this manual and download it to add it to the collection.

Because I haven’t finished the game, I’m not going to talk too in depth about my opinions on the story. But, so far I have been enjoying the story. While I find it a bit cheesy at certain points, it’s still a good enough story to play through the game.

Let’s survive this world

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So, due to a catastrophic event nicknamed the “Friday Floods”, the world got quite dangerous to life in. So, you need to be careful while exploring in this game that you survive the dangerous surface world. 

While playing this game, I didn’t really know under which style to categorize this game. On one hand, I would call this an action packed survival horror and on the other hand, I would call this a story driven FPS. In the end, I would say it’s more an adventure game with heavy influences of the FPS genre. The best game to compare it too is Half Life in a matter of fact. In that game you also have moments of puzzle solving and moments of action. 

During my playthrough, it was quite clear to me that a lot of love has been put into this game. But, it pains me to say that there are some things that are a bit rough around the edges. A first example is the controls. The controls are great and responsive and are quite quick to learn. But, sometimes they act quite strangely. I especially had problems getting up when I got out of a vent. Sometimes, I was unable to move and I had to jump to get into the right position. Also, ascending and descending on ladders is too fast in my opinion. 

A second example of this game being a bit rough is that there is some cheap enemy placement. Especially those exploding floating balls. Some of them come in the most inconvenient moments when the game is quite tense or you are trying to avoid a sniper shooting at you. Speaking about these snipers, I have seen in a gameplay video that you are able to take them out. I was unaware of that because they barely give any feedback when you hit them. I wonder if I could destroy these turrets, but I highly doubt that since they don’t seem to get damaged when I unload a complete magazine on them. 

So, a great advice from me is to quick save often. Especially after an encounter, since you never know when something happens and you need to load a save. Now, this brings me right to the difficulty of this game as a third example of this game being a bit rough. I started two playthroughs in this game. One on the medium difficult and one of the easy difficulty. Maybe it’s just my playstyle but I barely felt any difference between the two difficulties. Those flying orbs still gave me as much trouble on easy compared to normal. I think that if those flying orbs weren’t an instant kill, it would be a lot better.

Let’s talk about combat. You have two types of enemies. The robots and the soldiers. Only the turret and the soldiers don’t use melee attacks. All the other enemies use melee attacks. You can play this game without firing one bullet to an enemy since you have a fireball attack. Now, to be quite honest, I rarely used this attack since I found it a tad bit tricky to use and I always ran into my stray fireballs and got damage. 

Most of the enemies are quite beefy and require more than one bullet to take out. Rarely I was able to kill an enemy in one shot. Apart from when I got lucky and found some explosive barrels around and use my telekenis powers to throw it at my enemies. The combat is quite enjoyable and if you are a veteran in the shooter genre, I think you will feel right at home here. 

Destruction Of The World

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I don’t really recommend that you play this game with the default visual settings. I highly advise you to play around with the visual settings since otherwise you will have some issues like textures looking a bit rough or the lighting being too harsh. 

It would be a shame since the visual presentation in this game is well done. Of course, you will see some area’s where it gets a bit rough or where it feels like you are playing a game from 2010 instead of 2021, but in my opinion, as long as the presentation of the game sets the right mood without having too much visual glitches or clashing art styles, I think it shouldn’t matter if the game looks like you need the latest graphics card or your old laptop from when you were younger. 

Occasionally I had some moments where I felt that the visuals felt a bit more rushed or unpolished like the rest of the game. But, I didn’t focus on these moments since the charm of the world kept pulling me in and I didn’t stop enjoying this game at all. 

In terms of animations, I was quite impressed. It’s a shame that sometimes small objects like planks do glitch out a bit but that’s more a problem with the engine then the animations. The only thing I feel that would improve in terms of the animations is a bit more visual flair when you are using your telekenic powers. 

At first, I felt that the soundtrack of this game was totally disconnected from the game. I felt that it didn’t match at all. But, when I gave it some thought, I started to understand what the developer was going for. The soundtrack really fits the world before it was destroyed. Now, there are a lot of silent moments in this game that helps with the tense atmosphere but when the music kicks in, you get the feeling that you are destroying the world which gives an even more creepy vibe. 

Let’s go from talking about the soundtrack to talking about the sound effects. The guns feel great to fire and they sound amazing as well. The only thing I would add to the game is a bit more grunts to the enemies since it was a bit jarring sometimes when I entered a room with a lot of enemies that after their first shot started with their grunts. 

In terms of visuals and audio, this game does a lot right but it needs some polishing in some area’s to get the game to the next level. It would improve the game so much if there was a bit more visual polish and if the sound effects gave a bit more hints to the player on how to solve a puzzle or when there are enemies nearby. 

Now, in terms of the visuals, I would like to mention one thing. I think the option & FX UI is somewhat broken. Sometimes I didn’t display the background, sometimes it didn’t even pop-up and sometimes it was a combination of the two. But, I think this something that can be fixed in an update. 

In conclusion, I think that this game is a prefect example of a diamond in the rough. All the elements for this game being amazing are there. But, the rough area’s hold the game back. Thankfully, most of the issues have to do with the lack of polish in some area’s. The issues aren’t game breaking and shouldn’t hinder the enjoyment of the game. Well, unless you feel that jank in games is something you don’t want of course. 

Would I recommend this game? Oh yes, I would recommend this game to everybody who enjoys more story based FPS games like Half Life or Alan Wake. This game is quite enjoyable and for the low price of 14€, I think you get more than your money’s worth out of this game. While the game is a bit rough in some area’s at the moment of writing but the future patches will improve the game quite a lot. 

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

First Impression: Terraria (PC – Steam) ~ The Adventure Of Digging

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I know I was going to write another article this week, but I felt that I was pushing myself creatively too much so I decided to let my readers decide on which game I was going to write next. Twitter polls only give me 4 options and Terraria won. So, Terraria. A game that quite recently got it’s “final content update” not too long ago. So, in it’s “final form” is this game (still) worth playing? Let’s take a look at the game together in this article while I talk about my own opinion on the game and invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on this content of this article and/or the game. 

Editorial note: Review written while playing v1.4.1.2

The Adventure of Digging

There is no real story in this game. This game is an open world sandbox game. This game gets compared to games like Minecraft. Some even call(ed) it Minecraft 2D. But let me tell you, there is a lot more to this game than just a “simple Minecraft clone in 2D”.

The amount of differences in gameplay mechanics is so huge you can’t really compare Minecraft and Terraria a whole lot. I only use the comparison to say things like: “If you don’t know what Terraria is, think of Minecraft in 2D with some extremely interesting mechanics, richer combat, more bosses…”

I think it’s high time to talk about the “story” that exists in this game. Since there is some sort of a story in this game. I’m not going to talk too much in-depth about it, but if you want to know more… then I invite you to read the lore page on the Terraria Wiki. While in-game, you won’t really encounter this story so it’s an interesting additional piece of content for this game.

I’m going to apologize in advance if I compare this game a lot to Minecraft since this article comes from somebody who has been playing Minecraft for years upon years (since Beta 1.4 in 2011) and only recently got into Terraria. I have played it with some friends in the past but rarely on my own.

Now, I think this puts me in an position where I can take an interesting angle while reviewing/talking about this game. I think that’s it’s going to be very clear as soon as you read the following paragraphs. Now, this might mean that some things won’t get reviewed too in-depth to keep true to the theme of the article.

Terraria outdigs Minecraft

20201206145644_1I honestly enjoy Terraria more in the music department. While Minecraft has an amazing soundtrack, I feel that Terraria uses it’s music in a better way. Honestly, it has been quite some time since I played Minecraft with the in-game music simply I find Minecraft a bit too silent. But it’s quite rare to have a silent moment in Terraria. Also, it has a lot of unique music for each type of biome, boss and if you are underground or above ground…

Something I adore Terraria for is the fact it solves the issue a lot of players have with the early game grind. So, it works like this. When creating a character and when you create a world, you have to choose if you either play on Journey, Easy, Medium or Hardcore. If the world and character matches, you can enter the game. And here is the thing, you take your items and inventory with you.

So this means that you can take your strongest gear to a new world if you want to. That also means you can skip over the whole early game grind and directly get into the good stuff if you want. The only thing I could complain about this mechanic is that the menu UI is a bit clunky in that regard. I would have loved if the character selection screen and the world selection screen where combined. That would help switching between Classic and Journey mode so much easier. It also means you can play both Crimson and Corruption worlds with the same gear and character.

If you use a character created in the “Journey” difficult, you can even duplicate items when you have collected enough of a certain material. For example, if you collect roughly 400 pieces of a certain wood type, you can duplicate it. And guess what, this mechanic also transfers over to other worlds with the same character. You also have more control with this duplication mechanic like controlling time, weather, strength of the enemies among other things. Compare it a bit to commands in Minecraft with the duplication mechanic as an additional mechanic.

At first, I was afraid that this duplication mechanic was going to be overpowered. But I enjoy trying to collect every single variant that there is. There are a lot, but I mean a lot of items in Terraria, it’s not even funny.

Exploring and adventuring in Minecraft can be a lot of fun. Yet, at the moment of writing I feel that Terraria has a lot more to explore and do. Don’t get me wrong here, since it’s only by a slim margin. I feel that the dungeons and the progression is just a bit better implemented in this game than in Minecraft. But, I’m afraid that more big content updates like the Nether Update and Cave & Cliffs might give this point to Minecraft.

Now, something that Terraria nails over Minecraft is the combat. I find that the flow of the Terraria combat mechanics are a lot better than Minecraft’s. Also, there are much more way to fight your enemies than in Minecraft. From swords, throwing knifes, bows, morning star… In combat I love to use my sword for close by enemies and my bow for enemies further away.

There are also more bosses and enemies to fight in this game than in Minecraft. So, you can experiment with the different weapons that you can collect. Some weapons even have a special effect where you can spawn an ally and/or a pet. And then I haven’t started talking about the special armor that allows you to double jump, fly, climb walls….

Since that changes the gameplay quite a lot. There are various items that give you additional movement options and they all are unique and fun to play with. There is nothing to compare it with, since the enchantments in Minecraft compare more to stronger pickaxes or pickaxes of a certain material. Things like a double jump, wings, rocket boots… You have to juggle these items since you have a limited amount of slots to use. You also have the “social slots” that can also change your character’s appearance without showing your armor. The downside to it is that the effects of those items aren’t applied to you during gameplay.

One of the biggest advantages in my opinion is the fact that Terraria is on Steam and can use the Steam Cloud feature. This means that you can easily back-up your saves to the cloud and you don’t have to move files around when you play on another computer. I can only wish Minecraft had a similar system. I’m toying around with saving my worlds in my Dropbox folder but I don’t know how stable that will be.

Both reach the end

20201206145605_1Of course, there are things where I can’t pick a precise winner. There are things were I can’t say which game does it better. One of these things are the controls. Both games have amazingly solid controls. I’m purely talking about the PC versions since I haven’t played one second of Terraria on a console platform and I find Minecraft’s interface on console like the PS4 and Switch extremely clunky to use. But that’s my opinion and beyond the scope of this article.

The only minor nitpick I have with the Terraria controls is that I have a bit of trouble getting the grappling hook to work the way I want. But, I rarely use it so I haven’t given myself time to get used to it so yeah, that’s nitpicking.

If we would talk about difficulty, then you could either ask which one is the easier game but I rather ask the balance and progression. Both games have different mechanics and punishments. Both games have amazing difficulty settings so you can play the game at your own pace and difficulty. Both games have very different ways of punishing the player. Both games use beds to skip time and set spawn points of the player. The “biggest” difference is that there are items in Terraria that allows to warp to your spawn points when things get to hairy or your inventory is full. But this is only a one-way trip.

Minecraft has it’s hunger system to juggle while you have to juggle your mana use in Terraria. So picking a winner for who has the best difficulty system and things like that is impossible. Even when you are geared out the nose in both games, there are still things that can ruin your day so yeah.

Also, both games have a sort of achievement system where they teach you the game and nudge you in the right direction.

The next things were I can’t decide a winner is the visuals. While Terraria has a lot more items and animations than Minecraft, I feel that the smaller block pallet in Minecraft pushes the players to be a bit more creative with the items you have.

On one hand, the fact you can dress up your character to whatever you want in Terraria is an amazing feature but the skin layers in Minecraft is something that I have found something amazing to play around with too.

Also, I think it’s not even possible to pick a clear winner in terms of visuals and animations since both games aren’t even played on the same plain. Minecraft’s art needs to look good from every single angle while Terraria’s art “only needs to look good up front”. And both games pull it off extremely well. Biomes feel give the right feeling and the color pallet used in both games give them their own unique feel.

The villager system is something that I can’t find a winner for. Since Minecraft’s Village & Pillage update, the villager trading system is completely reworked with profession blocks and them having to restock. This makes trading now quite interesting since you need to level up your villagers by trading with them. In Terraria, there is this social system. You need to build houses for NPC’s to come and you have to puzzle them together. If you place certain NPC’s close together, it’s possible that you get locked out of certain items. And it also depends on your biome you build the house in. So, yeah. It’s a puzzle on it’s own.

Minecraft outdigs Terraria

20201205163138_1Now, there are somethings I prefer Minecraft’s way of doing over Terraria. Also, let me be clear here. The things that, in my opinion, Minecraft does better don’t mean that Terraria’s way of doing it is bad or broken perse. In terms of certain mechanics, there are things where I prefer Minecraft’s way of doing things over Terraria.

One of these things it the fact there is an infinite world in Minecraft and not in Terraria. Terraria’s world is large but when I created five different worlds, I found structures that weren’t there in my other worlds. Maybe it’s just me but I enjoy the fact that everything in the game can be found in the same world. Well, Terraria does have a more enjoyable map-system since you can more easily see everything you have explored so you can easily find your way back to a certain place…

Also, I miss some information from the F3 menu in Minecraft. Things like my coordinates, which biome I’m in… Those aren’t really present in Terraria. There are a few items in the game that give some information like your depth, but it takes up a slot in my inventory… So yeah.

Earlier I said that Terraria has a lot of items. I can also mention that Terraria also uses a ton of crafting stations. Now, if only there was some sort of recipe book like in Minecraft that would tell you which items you can craft and what the recipe is and which crafting station you need to use… That would have been great. I’m so glad that I have a second monitor attached to my PC so I can have the Wiki open when I quickly want to look up something.

But I find that Minecraft teaches the players a bit better with some landmarks and the recipe book on how the game works. For example, when you touch the water, you get the recipe for a boat. Or when you punch down a tree, you get the recipes for the wooden tools.

In Terraria, you have the guide explaining some of the recipes but I find that interface quite clunky to use. Especially since you can’t place workstations to see which items you can craft with them and the text can be barely readable since it’s one color. This UI isn’t the best.

Now there are three nitpicks I have with Terraria. The first is that when you press “esc”, you don’t pause the game. You don’t pause the game when you loose focus either. This let to some deaths, and even one while I was writing this article. But hey, this isn’t such a big deal when you get used to open the settings menu.

The second nitpick is that when you exit the game in Minecraft, you enter at the exact same location when you click the continue button. This isn’t true in Terraria. You enter at your spawn point.

And the 3rd and final one is that I would love to see or hear some drowning damage when you are drowning. Since now it simply slowly costs you health until you go above the water to breathe.

So, I think it’s high time for a conclusion since this article is getting rather long don’t you think?

Is Terraria a good game? 

To answer your question, yes. Terraria is a VERY good game. Is it better or worse then Minecraft? That’s a wrong question in my opinion. If you would ask: “if people who enjoy Minecraft will enjoy Terraria”. That would be a better question. The answer is yes by the way since I’m a great example and I know that there are a few other examples in my friend group as well.

Terraria and Minecraft are two very different games but they have some similar elements. Exploring their world and adventuring in it is an amazingly rewarding experience to play through.

Terraria is an addictive game with it’s amazing visuals and it’s freedom. I have sunken quite a few hours into it before I decided to write this review but I feel that a lot more time will be spent in this game before I decide to give the game a break.

I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sandbox, adventure, RPG-games like Minecraft or Starbound. If even anything sounded remotely interesting to you, I encourage you to give this game a shot. Since I find that the negatives heavily outweigh the positives for Terraria.

So, with that said I think it’s time to wrap up this article. It was certainly an unique experience to review a game while comparing it to another one. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would love it if I would be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Review: Dusk (PC – Steam) ~ Spinning Guns

headerSteam store page

I think I’m unable to hide the fact that I love playing retro-style shooters. I love the fact that a lot of new games are coming out in the genre since I like the genre quite a lot. I’m also crossing my fingers that no overload will occur. But, in any case, I think it’s high time to introduce the game I’m going to take a look at today. It’s name is Dusk, developed by New Blood Interactive. And let me tell you, I have set the bar quite high for since game since the producer of this game was the director of the Rise of the Traid (2013) reboot. Well, let’s get into the town of Dusk at dusk to shoot some monsters. But before we do that, I want to invite you to write a comment with your thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Editorial note: this review has been written after the Dusk Halloween 2020 update. 

Spinning guns

DUSK-GameplayMost of the story of this game is told through the environment. Yet, some details are told the DLC comic. Let me give you the gist of it. This game takes place in the fictional rural town Dusk, Pennsylvania. A huge network of ruins are discovered underneath the town. Those who were researching these tunnels got possessed and it’s up to you, DuskDude, to save the town from destruction. Yet, you are a treasure hunter and you want the riches that are rumored to be hidden in the town.

The influence of the original Doom is quite clear. In terms of story, this game takes the Doom story/setting and puts an Lovecraftian spin on it. I could talk more in-depth on the story but I want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible. The only thing I’ll say is that the story is an amazing homage to several famous horror movies and amazing shooters.

Now, let me tell you. If you expect a deep story with a lot of lore… I think you might have to look elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, the story and setting is extremely well done but this game focuses more on the gameplay and creating unique scenario’s then on telling a deep story.

Something that’s quite interesting to note is that there is some voice acting in this game. Something that surprised me is that the voice actor for this game is the legendary Andrew Hulshult and he is also the composer for this game. I heard his work before in Nightmare Reaper and now I have the pleasure to hear more work of his. But more about the soundtrack later. The voice acting that Andrew did in this game is amazing. You can feel that he leaned into the role and made the characters come alive.

While the story doesn’t have a lot of depth, the voice acting and the pacing the story was able to draw me in. Something that this story does quite well is that giving you the smallest amount of details that are enough to let your mind wonder and fill in the details and the rest of the story yourself.

Anyways, I have been rambling a lot about the story for now. I think it’s high time to talk about the gameplay. Is this game fun to play with a DuskDude that doesn’t have to reload his guns and spins them when you reload them.

The running slide

950313-dusk-windows-screenshot-fighting-an-enemy-in-the-fields-earlyYour goal in this game is to get to the ending of the level without dying. In order to do that, you have several weapons at your disposal. You start off with the sickles, these are your melee weapon if you are out of ammo. In my playthrough, I rarely used these. I found that they weren’t effective enough to conquer the various amount of enemies in this game.

Before I continue to talk about the weapons, I want to mention the cigar. This is an item that’s in your inventory at all time and you can use it to slowly recover health. I discovered that fact through researching this game. So, rest assured, this game can be beaten without the use of the cigar. To be honest, it’s annoying to use since it’s slow and has a cool down, which is a good thing mind you. Image having a health pack to quickly heal you, on you at all times. That would break the difficulty curve so fast.

Anyways, the weapon selection in this game has your standard pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, hunting rifle and rocket launcher guns. There are two types of shotguns and rocket launchers. On top of that, there is also a sword and a crossbow in this game. Managing these weapons and deciding when the use them is the biggest mechanic of this game. Also, don’t forget that DuskDude can pick up items that you help you to save ammo. Also, some items may be stronger then you think. 

So, you can fight your enemies by shooting or throwing stuff at them. Earlier I talked about the fact that you can spin your weapons. Hitting your enemies with a spinning weapon does ten points of damage to them. Of course, there is also the possibility that you can let them start in fighting. But I have seen this happen quite rarely during my playthrough. But, the crystal of madness holds some secrets about that.

During your quest to find the keys that open the doors to the ending of the level, you can also find various secrets. Some of them are in plain sight and others are hidden behind fake walls. If you are secret hunting, pay close attention to the environment and don’t destroy boxes since they can be used to jump higher. And each secret is worth it, let me tell you. Some secrets saved my skin during my playthrough. 

There is one mechanic in this game I’m honestly missing in other shooter games and that’s the slide mechanic. When you are running and press the crouch button, DuskDude does a slide. This feels so gratifying to pull off and helps quite a lot during combat. 

There are also power-ups in this game that enhance the gameplay quite a lot. My two favorites are the Fast Fire Totem and the Wall Climbing power-up. The Fast Fire Totem just reduces your weapon cool down to 0. It’s ridiculous and using it on a large group of enemies felt so enjoyable to do. Also, the Wall Climbing power-up is used in excellent moments and set pieces that made it a lot of fun to use. 

In terms of gameplay, this game is a well built shooter and it controls amazingly well. I never had a moment where I felt that a death was the game’s fault. The only nitpick I had with the controls is that picking up items and moving them is sometimes a bit tricky when you are getting things from between tight spaces. 

The Steam achievements were fun to get while exploring the various landscapes in this game. Visually, this game looks right out of the early 90’s. The visual style has been nailed perfectly with blocky models and everything. Yet, surprisingly, the game is quite detailed and feels like a real dystopian landscape. 

In terms of animations, this game hits another nail on the head. I highly advise you to learn the attack animations of your enemies since they can save your life in certain spots. Some enemies are a big pain to deal with but when you learn their patterns and animations, they can be worked around. 

To top this all off, you have an amazing soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult. This soundtrack adds so much to the game, it’s amazing. While the game gives off a horror and Lovecraft vibe, you can rip and tear with the epic metal soundtrack in the background that even gets moody at certain moments. That in combination with great sound design makes it fun to hunt down your enemies, avoid their attacks and shoot them. 

So far I have been praising this game, like the additional fun I had when I messed around with the cheats in this game, but I’m sad to report that this game does drop the ball in some area’s. Let’s talk about them. 

Nostalgic loading screen

950317-dusk-windows-screenshot-many-weapons-can-be-dual-wielded-earlyLet me first start with the biggest bummer of them all. I wanted to try out the multiplayer in order to be able to write about it. Sadly enough, the multiplayer is quite deserted at times. I’m not the best in shooter games but I felt that the balance was all over the place. In the few matches I was able to play, I got spawn killed quite often. Maybe I need to give it another chance but I have a bit of a sour taste in my mouth so I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Thankfully, the single player is more then fun enough to play through and there is were the focus is at. 

I was about to complain about the lack of the weapon wheel, but this is coming in a future patch when the console versions are released. In addition to that, we are also getting custom weapons, co-op and mod support. So, these things might help in fixing some of the issues I have with the game. 

Something I didn’t like is that this game is quite short. There are 30 levels in this game and you can finish this game in give or take 10-ish hours. This game has so much potential and it’s over before you know it. I was really getting into it nearing the end and then I was fighting the final boss. Oh well, this game is somewhat replayable due to the secret hunting you can do and trying to beat your fastest time. 

You know, I don’t want to do this but this game does drop the ball in something that’s a big pet peeve of mine. This is the UI. While it works and is easy to use, there is some major polish that needs to happen to it. Let’s start with the lack of a map. I got lost several times in some levels because I was unable to bring up a map. Some of these levels are huge and without a map, you can get lost if you didn’t pay attention during a fight. 

If you use your mouse wheel to scroll in some menu’s like the save/load menu or in the language menu, the scrolling up is quite broken. Sometimes it works and other times it refuses to work. 

Speaking of the save/load system, the save and load system isn’t good. I hate the fact that the list of save files is alphabetical and not sorted by the latest save you made. I always had a hard time finding my most recent save when I wanted to continue the game. Also, when you saved the game for a second time in a level, it doesn’t ask you to overwrite your latest save… It takes the name of the latest save and starts adding lines to it. 

When selecting a save file to load, you get the level name and the time stamp of when you saved the game. I wish I was able to see how long I was in the level as well. That way I would how far I was in the level. 

Now, this game doesn’t do an autosave when you enter a new level. You have to save manually each and every time. Thankfully, you can start at the beginning of the level through the main menu quite easily. 

All of these things are such a shame. Since it puts a blemish on quite an interesting game. A game that does a lot right like an enjoyable endless mode where you have to keep being fast and efficient since there is a huge lack of health pickups. Something else this game does well is setting the atmosphere with the fake DOS-loading screen and sound effects. 

But then strange mistakes happen like your controls settings not carrying over from single player to multiplayer. Or the custom cursor not working all to well in the multiplayer menu. 

Also, there are things like when you use your double barreled shotgun and you have only one bullet left, you can’t shoot your shotgun. But here is the thing that annoys me, when you are out of ammo for all your other weapons, DuskDude switches to another gun. And guess what he doesn’t do in the situation I described earlier? But of course, switch weapons! 

Now, there are moments where DuskDude flips upside down. During swimming moments or in certain levels. And let me tell you, the sudden camera movement was quite disorienting for me sometimes. One timing during my playthrough I even had to stop playing since I got a major headache… But that might be just me… 

So, with all of this said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article. Time to wrap everything up in a nice TL;DR and give my final thoughts on the game. 

Conclusion

The good:

+ Addictive and fast gameplay.

+ The amount of homages and easter eggs are amazing.

+ The audio and visual design is excellent.

+ Andrew Hulshult’s soundtrack is a big plus.

+ …

The bad:

-Can be a bit short if you don’t go 100% it.

-The multiplayer is a bit eh, in my opinion.

-Some UI issues.

-The save/load system is somewhat broken. (The UI)

Final thoughts:

Dusk is an amazing game that takes you back to the times of the original Doom, Quake and other old school shooters. It’s an enjoyable shooter to play through and I had to a lot of fun from beginning to end. 

It’s clear that a lot of polish and love went into this game and it shows. This game is a labor of love that turned out quite well. It’s a shame that some UI issues (especially in the SAVE/LOAD system) are a blemish on an otherwise amazing game. 

I can forgive the game being rather short since you can go secret hunting or try to beat the game on a higher difficulty or beat your fastest time. Also, for the price of only 25€, you get an additional 26 page comic and the whole soundtrack by the amazing Andrew Hulshult. That dude has the shooter soundtrack creation nailed to a T. 

Would I recommend this game to fans of (retro-style) shooters? I think that’s a no-brainer YES, OF COURSE! The positives highly outweigh the negatives for this game. And with some updates on the horizon, this game might only get better and maybe some of the UI issues I mentioned in this article might be fixed in the future. Who knows? 

So, if you would excuse me… I think it’s high time I continue to shoot some of these enemies that are calling me a heretic while I wrap up this final paragraph. I want to thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

Game Quicky: Grood (Switch) ~ Not That Three One.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 82Steam versionNintendo.com pageOfficial website

Drageus Games is at it again, they published a new game called Grood. Not to be confused with Marvel’s character named “Groot”. Fun fact, groot is actually a Dutch word as well. When you literally translate it into English, it means big. Anyways, I’m getting off track. Drageus Games provided me with a press copy to take an honest look at this game and in this article I’m going to take a look at this 2,5D side scrolling shooter by CC_Arts. Is it any good or should you skip this indie title for 5€? Let’s find out while I invite you to shoot me a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this (game quicky) article. 

Editorial note: this review has been written while playing v1.1.0.

Load the canons!

the-woods1

The story of this game is short and simple. There are a lot of enemy robots and machines out there, so you build a big attack ship called Grood. You want to take on the enemy with this ship and you set out on a mission for it.

In terms of story, there isn’t much more. On one hand, this can be seen as a negative by some people but I personally see it as a positive for this game. The focus of this game is the gameplay and not telling a story. So, it doesn’t get in the way at all. Also, this time it’s in the game instead of only in the description of the game in the eShop.

Something that I found a huge positive for this game is the fact that there is a co-op feature. It would be a huge ask to have an online co-op as well, but hey. I’m surprised that there is a co-op mode. I do have a small nitpick about it, but I’m going to talk about that in the negatives section of this article.

Let me tell you, this game doesn’t fool around. The epilepsy warning at the start of the game is a serious warning since there are some flashing imagery in this game. This game is anything except a cakewalk. At first, I was afraid that this game would use a lot of unfair or unbalanced ways to make the game “more difficult” but I was pleasantly surprised.

This game hits the right balance at being challenging but not too challenging. The pattern of the enemies are easy to learn and avoid. This game doesn’t go into bullet hell mode or spawn a ton of enemies you have to damage through. In most cases, there are one or two enemies who are a bit too cheap in my opinion. At the start of the 3rd level, there is this ship that shoots lazers without too much of a warning in which direction making it too much of a cheap shot.

The damage system is quite interesting as well. The more damage you take, the less color there is during gameplay. Yet, this game throws an unique wrench in the mix. It simulates a broken screen so you have to also think where to aim your bullets since you can’t line them up properly anymore.

There is also this slow motion mechanic. Once you have defeated a certain amount of enemies, you can go into slowdown mode. Everything, even your own ship, slows down so you can plan out your shots even more. You notice how much more time you have in the slow-motion mode with the battery next to your score. It has to be full before you can start it and it has to be depleted to exit out of the mode. You can’t start or stop the slow-motion at will.

You could think that this game can be cheesed by hanging at the bottom at passing through the levels quite easily. Yet, you shoot yourself in the foot with that tactic. Since this game also focuses on high scores. There is even a leader board in the main menu. I only wish it told me on what platforms these scores where achieved since I would love to see which platforms have the highest score.

Visually, this game looks extremely nice. In terms of animation and visual presentation, I don’t have any complaints. The animation of text appearing is a nice touch and pleases the computer scientist in me greatly. The game runs quite smooth through the detailed terrain and I rarely experience frame drops or slowdowns.

Speaking of impressive visuals: you can play this game in “90’s love modus”. If you enable this option in the options menu, you go from the 3D visual artstyle to pixelart with the same attention to detail that the 3D-style brings. This makes the retro gamer inside of me extremely happy. I do have two minor complaints about it and that’s the score isn’t readable enough in TV mode as well as the health bar. But these can be fixed with a minor patch I think.

This game feels quite gratifying to play. The quite responsive controls is another part the helps achieve that fact. Add an nice metal soundtrack with great sound design and you get a game where you have that “one more round” mentality.

This game has been localized in 4 languages. Which I find a bit strange, since usually Drageus Games has more languages then 4. This game can be played in English, Russian, Spanish and Italian. Since I only speak English out of these 4, I can’t review or talk about the quality of the translation.

Let’s forget about the cannons

philosopher-path0No game is perfect, and this game made a few mistakes. Since I only played the Switch port, I can’t say that these issues appear on other platforms but these things were a bit of a downer on my experience.

First of all, let’s talk about the health situation. While the draining of color is a interesting mechanic that has been used in other games like Tomb Raider, sometimes it’s quite unclear how much health I still had left. This made me play too careful sometimes.

Secondly, let’s talk about that silly “continue” feature. I can understand that you only have one life and when you are death, you have to restart the whole game. But, I think it would make the game more accessible and ease the tension a bit when the player had more or infinite lives. With the consequence, that when a player died, there score was reset to 0 or they could “pay with their score” to revive. That way people can still finish the game but try and get a high score to get higher on the leaderboards. Also, that would provide a solution that you could only continue when you have beaten level 4.

Thirdly, let’s talk about the UI. It makes a few mistakes alright. While the visual design is quite cool and interesting to use… It suffers in the usability department. Take the credits for example, these are unreadable while you are in TV mode due to the angle of the menu.

Another bigger example is the options menu. Each option brings you to a submenu. Apart from the vibration option, that can be set in that menu. Now, if only you could feel a sample of the vibration and we would be set.

But the biggest issue with the UI I have is something quite simple. I find it extremely strange that you can’t go back to the main menu during gameplay. You either have to restart the game or have a game over.

Fourthly, in this negatives section of this article I want to mention that there is no overview of the controls. Since the tutorial only appears the first time and doesn’t appear after that, that means you have to figure out the game on your own if you take a break or let a friend play.

Fifthly, why o why isn’t there a sort of level leaderboard? Wouldn’t it be cool to know which are the high scores per level? Or in what level a certain high score was achieved?

And finally, let’s talk about the co-op mode. I do have one gripe with it. Earlier I talked about the health situation. Image that issue but now you have two ships and you are unable to tell who is almost dead and who has still a lot of health points. Let’s not forget to mention the fact that there is no tutorial in this game so your partner has to figure everything out from either you or trail and error.

So, let’s save or not?

Is this game worth it or should you skip it? Well, it depends. There is a lot going for this game. It’s challenging and fun. It has that one more round mentality and it has a lot of competition with the high scores and leaderboards. Yet, with only having one live, this game can feel quite unforgiving.

The biggest mistakes are made in the UI department. There are some things that really bothered me and made me quite thankful that the Switch has some features to easily reset the game.

Would I be able to recommend this game to anybody? Yes! I would recommend this game to anybody who enjoy side scrolling shooters. This game quite well done and has a lot of love put into it. It does have a ton of minor issues that make the game a bit less enjoyable but apart from the one live – restart situation, most of the things shouldn’t get too much in the way of enjoying this game.

I have left out one mechanic from this review for those who want to give this game a try and want to still have a surprise left. I’m rather curious what you guys and girls think about it. But, apart from that, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game.

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

Score: 3.5/5

First Impression: Cave Digger (PC – Steam) ~ Diggy Diggy Dig. (Non-VR Version)

capsule_616x353-1Steam store page

At least once every two or three months, I get an email from a developer who is asking me to review their VR-game. I always have to decline since I quite easily get migraine attacks from VR headsets and that’s one of the main reasons why I don’t play VR and don’t even own a VR headset. Now, why am I taking a look at a VR game then? Well, because the developers of “Cave Digger” made a non-VR version of this game and asked me to write an honest review about their game. So, a VR game that went “Non-VR”, is it any good, or should it remain a VR-game? Let’s dive right into the caves while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. (A press code was provided by the developer to write this article)

Diggy Diggy Dig

Cave-Digger-PC-Edition-3dIn this game, you play as a digger for the Frontier. For the first part of the game, the story doesn’t have a big hook to pull you in. But, the further you get into the game, the bigger the actual hook gets. If you want to enjoy most of the story in this game, I highly advise you to take the second radio station on your train since it describes the mystery a lot better. More on that later.

The goal in this game is that you not only uncover the mystery in this game but you also rebuild the city with the riches you find down in the caves. The more you explore the cave, the more information you get from hidden parts of the caves where a lot of jewels and riches reside that might help you earn more money and buy more upgrades. 

So, what is the mystery about? To stay as spoiler-free as I can, it’s about a hidden ancient civilization that might still be alive or too advanced for our human race. So, in the alternative western setting, you have to make a decision about what to do. I have been playing this game for 3 to 4 hours now and I haven’t met another human character… Physically that is. Most of the story is told over the radio. And I do have a complaint about it. 

The voice acting of the characters is good. It pulls you into the story without an issue. Now, English isn’t my native language and while I’m quite good at speaking it, sometimes I enjoy it when there are subtitles when a word or an expression is used that I don’t know. Sadly enough, this game doesn’t have subtitles. That’s a big bummer. 

It would have been great if there was some sort of archive of previous broadcasts. It would be a great help to those who took a (long) break while playing this game to catch up at what’s happening or to re-listen again in case you missed some parts. 

At first, I thought that this game was going to be quite linear, but that is far from the truth. Since this game has 9 different endings. Yes, the replay value of this game is quite high. Now, I haven’t encountered one of the endings so far but I’m quite curious to see them. So, when I have beaten the game and I write a follow-up review article, I’ll talk more in-depth about the endings. One thing I’m going to say already is that there funny and interesting easter eggs in this game that add a whole lot of charm to the game.

Two Ways Exploration

There are two ways you can explore, you can go to the elevator and the train. The main game is going on an adventure with your train. But, it’s easy to earn money by exploring with the elevator. You need to do both since some items to progress in the game without going into a crazy grinding mode is by buying the items at the elevator. 

The gameplay of the “two modes” are also quite different. In the elevator, you can have secret vault doors, but I don’t know how to interact with them. Most likely, I haven’t found the correct tool. You also get three different stages where you get 30 seconds to mine out resources or collect artifacts. After 30 seconds, you move on to the next section. I find that it’s quite easy to throw a stick of dynamite to the walls and use the vacuum glove to collect all the gems before they disappear into the edges of the elevator. Oh yes, that happens during the transition of the sections as well. 

So, let’s talk about train exploration. With this train, you go into the caves where you have various places you can go to get materials and explore. At first, the train goes extremely slowly but the further you upgrade your train, the faster you will be able to travel. Thankfully, there are warp points to certain landmarks so you don’t have to restart your whole travel each and every run. 

The tutorial only explains the basic controls. But the rest is up to you to actually figure out on your own. How you safely extract fossils and oil from the caves, it’s up to you to figure out. Even what the strange golden statues are doing on several dig sites.

Now, to collect the goodies, you have to throw them in the deposit box in your train. Before I got the glove, I found it extremely annoying to pick up the items one by one and deposit them. When I discovered that the glove allows you to suck up several items at once, I found that the game opens up a lot more. Also, it doesn’t take long before you meet your chest buddy who is also a deposit point and even eats up whole piles of gems and deposits them for you. 

Now, this lack of tutorial is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes the game a bit more challenging and it feels more rewarding when you figure something out and solve a puzzle. On the other hand, things like the fact that the glove is a vacuum don’t get explained and might turn some people off from this game… 

Something I can forgive is the fact that this game can be a bit repetitive. If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend that you play this game in short bursts since otherwise, this game might become quite boring. 

Something is wrong, I can feel it.

To be quite honest with you, I felt quite conflicted while writing this article. Since there is a lot that this game does right but the mistakes that this game makes are quite major. 

A great example of this is the visual presentation. Visually, this game looks amazing. The environments are detailed and feel life-like. For example, there is a volcano level in the elevator and you really feel that you are mining in an extremely hot place. In terms of animations, it’s good. Nothing too groundbreaking but good. 

Yet, there are several moments where I thought: “shouldn’t there be some visual to tell the player you are breaking this rock?” or “why does my drill always get so zoomed in when I walk very close to walls?”  or “why isn’t there a fuse animation on the dynamite?” … There are several more of these questions in the visual department, sadly enough. There isn’t enough feedback from the game to the player to communicate if they are hitting or missing a rock for example and this breaks the immersion fast. 

And it pains me to say that the smooth and stable visual presentation isn’t the only victim to this problem. The controls are as well. In most cases, the controls of this game work amazingly. I rarely felt like I was cheated out of something or that the game was unresponsive. Yet, I felt that the vacuum didn’t always work as I was expecting, and carrying around items to other places felt a bit … janky. Sometimes I dropped an item with me being unable to explain why my character dropped the item. 

But there also problems with the audiovisual presentation. The soundtrack of this game is just amazing. The variety of tracks in this game is just perfect. I really enjoy the fact there are different genres present in this game apart from all old-western-style music. The sound effects are pretty neat as well but don’t always play consistently. Sometimes they don’t play and sometimes they play for too long. Sounds that don’t always play are the drill when you are excavating relics and sounds that play too long are your gloves when you are using the super punch and cancel it. 

Not even the UI gets saved in build 2020-08-25. For some reason, there are still controller controls in the level bottom of the pause menu… while I don’t have a controller connected. On top of that, the counter for the number of unlocked endings is completely wrong. Just look at this screenshot to see both issues:

So yeah, it pains me to see this since you can clearly see that the rest of the UI is fine and works great. You can see your current main objective and your special mission to gain additional resources but mistakes like I mentioned above are just giving this game a sort of “beta” feel.

Now, most of the issues I mentioned so far I can personally overlook to a certain degree. Yes, they are annoying and they make the game less enjoyable but not unplayable for me. Yet, the thing that makes the game a bit unplayable in my opinion is the fact there is no real way to lose this game. There is no real danger in this game lurking. There is even no punishment for jumping in the ravine, you simply respawn next to your train.

So, is this game a bad or a good game? On one hand, this game is extremely relaxing and maybe it isn’t so bad that there isn’t a lot of danger lurking over your shoulder so you can enjoy the game at your own pace. Yet, on the other hand, I got a bit bored during parts of this game since I didn’t feel challenged at all.

I think the best conclusion is this. This game is perfectly balanced, as all things should be. While it has (huge) flaws that can turn people away, there are a lot of good things that can draw others in. I honestly think that with some more depth and polish, this game can become a real hit but in it’s current state, I think it will become a footnote in history.

Now, I think the big problem I have with this game is that I have played a game that did this concept a whole lot better in my opinion. I’m talking about SteamWorld Dig. Maybe I’m comparing this game and that game a bit too much in my mind diminishing my experience with this game. But, that makes this game: not a bad game. Since I enjoy trying to get the achievements in this game.

As I said earlier, I’m conflicted about this game. On one hand, I enjoy this game and I would recommend it to people who enjoy games like Minecraft or Steamworld Dig, but on the other hand, I don’t want to recommend this game since it needs a lot more work to be enjoyed by more than a niche audience. Also, I haven’t played the VR version of this game. Maybe that version is more polished.

Maybe when I finish all the endings, I might be able to form better opinions on this game. And who knows, maybe by then a few patches are released that improve the game and I might praise this game a lot more in my review. But for now, I think I’m going to wrap up this article. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!