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

Steam store pageOfficial website

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

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

A story discussion

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s please the crowd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For seven years?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. This amazing gem of a passion project game that’s worth your time if you enjoy action fighting games with unique mechanics. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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The Great Ace Attorney Goes To Review Trial

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

Visual Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio and Controls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replayability and Difficulty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gameplay and Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with NekoJonez by the Well-Red Mage

Today I want to bring you an article from a website that has totally rebranded. The website is of a good friend of mine, the Well Red Mage. Together with a lot of other co-writers he runs the amazing the-pixels.com. Before the rebranding, he did a series where he interviewed other bloggers. Now, during the rebranding, the decision was made to remove these articles. Since I personally really liked the article, I asked if I was allowed to rehome it. He agreed that I was allowed to republish the article and give it a new home here. An editorial note: this article was published at least 7 years ago. Around 2015-2016. Some information is out-of-date, and some branding has totally changed. But, please do enjoy this old blast from the past.

“Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help so much since you can feel so connected with people going through the same things.”

For our sixth blogger interview I had the pleasure of corresponding across the wide oceans with the collector extraordinaire, NekoJonez of arpegi.wordpress.com. I had a great time chatting and getting some substantial responses! If you’re interested in joining our series of interviewees, but don’t know how, then improve ze mind! Check out our post “Introducing Blogger Interviews“.

“Hello again, NekoJonez!
It is about time we started your interview! Yay, get excited! Let’s start off with the question: How long have you been a gamer?”

“Hello there, I’m pretty excited to do this. I have been a gamer since I was about 4 years old. The year was 1996. I got my first experiences with early computer games and the best handheld line ever made; the Game Boy and DS line. I wasn’t allowed to play consoles when I was a child and I didn’t get a lot of computer time… So, I played a lot on my Game Boy. I ran through so many batteries when I was little, I think the battery companies earned a fortune from my pocket money. Mario & Yoshi, Pokémon, Pac-Man, Tetris, Zelda: Link’s Awakening are just a few games I have played back then.”

Can’t go wrong with the Game Boy. Such an influential system and so accessible for us as children. What was your favorite game for the original green and black Game Boy?

“That’s a very difficult question to answer. Since there have been so many great titles on the green & black Game Boy. Games like Kirby’s Dreamland, Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Super Mario Land 2 are honorable mentions. But if I have to choose, I have to go for the most predictable of them all. Pokémon Red & Blue. There is no game in the Game Boy library that can top that and the childhood memories it created. But, truth to be told, I started playing on the Game Boy Color quite quickly since the old Game Boy brick broke… Thanks to battery acid. Yeah. Right before my birthday. Not too long after, I got my own Game Boy Color, which I still own.”

“Ooh, rest in peace, classic Game Boy.
Wherever you are. Great list of games by the way. It’s hard to overstate how insane those original Pokémon games were when they came out. Still remember your favorite first-gen Pokémon?”

“Yes, and my favorite first-gen Pokémon isn’t picked because it’s the strongest or the best Pokémon in the generation… It’s just because both my nickname and my personality. Also, I loved his character in the anime! Yes, it’s the cat Pokémon, Meowth. The Alola region variant is also in my personal favorite color. Silver-y. . Little story time: I was known as the catlover in primary school and when we played Pokémon on the playground; I always got the role of Meowth or Giovanni. Which is strange, since I’m kindhearted and caring by nature.”

“I can hear Meowth’s grating voice and urban accent already!
So beyond a love for Game Boy, tell us a little more about yourself!”

 “I’m NekoJonez. A 23-year Belgian man who works in education. My biggest hobbies are writing, playing games, blogging and acting on stage. Besides games, I like to watch anime to chill. I’m also studying to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. I love playing games, it doesn’t matter to me when they are released. … Oh, before I forget, I also collect games since I was a child. So, I’m quite proud of my collection too.” 🙂

“Where did the name NekoJonez come from? Neko is ‘Cat’ in Japanese is it not?
I’m guessing Meowth maybe had something to do with that.”

“Well, it has a history. Neko is indeed the Japanese for cat. Because I love cats and I have a big interest in everything that’s Japanese… I added Neko to my nickname. But that addition was only added like 5-6 years ago. Jonez comes from something else. When I was 7 years old, I think, my aunt and I went to a video rental store. I was allowed to rent Indiana Jones and The Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Oh man, I was hooked. My cousin got this amazing PC game of Indiana Jones. It was called, The Infernal Machine. And yeah, I know it from the first level to the last by heart. And because of that, people started calling me Jones. And… as a child I was afraid for getting sued for copyright, so I changed the last letter to a ‘Z’.”

“That’s a charming story! So you’re like a feline treasure hunter. From Belgium!
Are the waffles really famous there?”

“Kind of, but there is one Belgian product way more popular: French fries. In some households it’s a big tradition to go and get fries each week. We also have special stores that only sell French Fries and special meat with it, besides the usual chains. But the waffles are most popular in our capital with tourists. I personally love the one with chocolate on top and sugar in it. Man, those are tasty.”

“Now I want waffles…
How long have you been writing/blogging for and how did you get started? Was it like a sudden epiphany or something?”

“The writing is something that started when I was a child. When I watched movies, read a book, played a game… I was so interested in why people got drawn into the story. So, I tried to write my own. With various levels of success. I once got in the finals of a competition in early high school with a story I wrote in 15 minutes. But in 2010, I thought to myself…. What if I can share my love of games with the world and start reviewing? I’m not too good at designing and things like that, so I ditched the video review idea. I still wanted to share my gaming life with my family, so I can avoid the usual questions of ‘what are you playing and what do you think of it?’ Around early May 2010, I created my blog. I first started to write in Dutch. Since I wanted to share my reviews and such with my family and friends. That was a fun journey. It taught me a lot on the basics of blogging. I once got into a small argument with a TV-channel here. In 2013, I both stopped my Dutch blog, archived it and replaced it with my current English blog. And when my articles got picked up by other blogs, my own blog started growing.”

“That’s pretty cool writing in different languages.
What was the argument with the TV-channel about?”

“Well, it was right around the first E3 presentation of the 3DS. Back then, there was a Belgian gaming TV-channel covering the event. And when the Nintendo event got covered, they did it in such a bad manner… I wrote a lengthy article about it, giving my views and arguments on it. To my surprise, in the next episode, they mentioned my blog by name! They also left a comment on my blog kindly inviting me to the studio to record an episode with them. Sadly enough, I wasn’t able to go, but I still have the article and comment archived somewhere. But yeah, TV-exposure really boosted my blog and from then on out, I went from 2-5/visitors a day to 20-50/visitors a day. And it was a big boost for me since they actually agreed with some of my arguments! Sadly enough, I haven’t recorded the actual shout out and the TV-channel doesn’t exist anymore. Otherwise, I would have posted a link, so it could be added in this interview.”

“Wow, that’s some really awesome exposure.
What are your current thoughts on Nintendo, the Switch or the NES Mini?”

“About the NES Mini, I’m both happy and afraid. I’m happy that people get to play retro games on a dedicated box. This would put retro games more in the spotlight. It does make me afraid though, since now it’s possible I get even more competition when I’m hunting games down at garage sales and flea markets. And the Nintendo Switch looks like an amazing concept to me. Like, it’s almost made for me. I love playing my handheld since I’m on the go a lot. But when I’m home, I can play my games on a big screen. LOVELY. I know that Skyrim is being ported to the Switch, but if I may choose one game that could be ported to the Switch, it’s the Bioshock Trilogy. But the Nintendo Switch has a ton of potential, and I’m avoiding reading up about it as much as I can. So, I can be blown away and amazed when it comes out.” 

“I think I can echo most of those thoughts as well.
Here in the states, the accessibility of the NES Mini is next to nothing. Like it’s impossible to find. I’ve got a visually retro themed blog, so obviously I’d like to get my hands on it whenever that becomes possible. I’m excited about the Nintendo Switch too! Tell me, what would be the best thing you think the Switch could do to be amazing, and conversely what would absolutely ruin the Switch for you?”

“The Switch would be great if it enhanced our way of play. I would love to see games take advantage of the fact that the Switch is portable and a console. Just imagine for a second, you go on a physical Pokémon hunt and when you plug the Switch in, you can have Pokémon battles on a big screen. Think of the possibilities.

“What would ruin the Switch for me is when the battery life sucks. It’s marketed as being portable and fun for the whole family. Also, I hope that the first games that are released for it isn’t all Wii U ports. I want something new and fresh in the launch titles too. But actually thinking about it… Something that raises a red flag is the facts it’s portable too. I am worried that developers will have trouble with it. Since the way how handheld games work versus console games… Time will tell on that. We could spend hours and hours speculating about amazing ideas and red flags for the Switch, but I think we should wait for when more information drops.”

“The battery life will be a big one for sure.
What about your collection you’re so proud of? Care to share more on that?”

“I have been a collector for a long time. It all started because my family and parents found games too expensive to buy. So, when they found out that you can buy big titles on a garage sale, they took me to garage sales. And I love it. Now, I go to various garage sales and thrift stores to let my collection grow. I also talk to coworkers and friends and ask them if they don’t need their old games anymore. So, most of my collection comes from there. I have posted some pictures a while ago, but I always wanted to write and create an updated list of my collection, but it’s such a big project, I rarely find the time for it. I love getting up early to go and buy games for my collection. Something I’m most proud of is the fact that I have a collection with games that interest me, have a history, can be interesting to review on my blog, have some major value. I also have one rule, I try to avoid buying games on sites like eBay or buying them online. I wish to find them all in the wild. And that’s something else I’m quite proud of.”

“That is really cool! You must have some good luck with thrift stores and yard sales.
Seems like nobody in my town is selling stuff like this anymore. What is one of the rarest items in your collection? And which item are you most proud of?”

“Well, I have two different versions of Pokémon Crystal v1.0 and v1.1, I have StarFox on the SNES boxed. I also have a means to play almost every Zelda game released. The most rare items are a few games that were only released here in Belgium. Like educational titles. Those are extremely hard to find in my native language. And some educational titles from other countries in Europe that got translated into English. I enjoy playing educational titles once in a while. Freddi Fish is one of my childhood favorites. If I have to pick the item I’m most proud off, well… It’s my (3)DS. Since I have played so many games on both those devices, it’s ridiculous.”

“That’s awesome! Sounds like a breathtaking collection.
I wish I could just come over for the weekend to hang out. Haha! Well in wrapping this up let me ask you for a bit of encouraging wisdom, if I may. There are many people who are lonely this time of year. What would you say to some of them if you could?”

“If you have family, go and do something with your family. If you have a pet, give it an additional present this time of year. Also, don’t stay lonely. Go out in the world and explore. Go to events and try to enjoy yourself. Instead of keeping the feeling inside, seriously talk about it with family and friends. Seriously, life will be a lot more fun this way. You will have a lot more stories and experiences. And honestly, start to blog and/or vlog. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help so much since you can feel so connected with people going through the same things.”

“I hope those words touch someone who needs to hear them.
Well, it’s been a real pleasure talking with you across the oceans! Thanks very much for spending your time with me.”

“You’re welcome. Thanks for the interview! Have a great rest of your day!”

End Transmission.

First Impression: Desperados III (PC – Steam) ~ Pimping Nostalgia

Official websiteSteam store page

I still remember when I first played the original Desperados back at a friend’s place. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. To be very honest, I never really beat the original game. That’s mainly due to my playstyle. In action games, I love being more aggressive and “in your face” instead of being stealthy what that game more required. When the 3rd game got announced and released in 2020, I was beyond hyped to play it. But, a lot of different games just distracted me. I was also afraid that I wasn’t going to enjoy the game too much since… yeah my playstyle. But then, this month’s Humble Bundle got a key for Desperados III and I bought it. I started playing this game and yeah. I wasn’t wrong putting this game on my top 10 games I’m looking forward to in 2020 list. But, what exactly do I think about it? Well, I’ll explain in this article while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on this article.

Pimping nostalgia

While this is the 3rd main entry in the series, you don’t need to have played the first two games to enjoy the story in this game. Since, this game is a prequel to the first game. Basically, the backstories of the main characters are set up in this game. While we see a few familiar faces to the originals two games, we also see two brand-new characters.

The pacing of the story is a little weird. Because, the main setup of the story is explained over the whole first chapter. You don’t want to know how many times I have rewritten this section to avoid spoiling something. Let’s just say that the story of this game is quite interesting and doesn’t disappoint for your typical Western story.

The story doesn’t overpower the game, since the star of the show is the gameplay. But, the story doesn’t disappoint at all. I love the voice acting of all the characters. The performances are amazing and fit their characters as a glove. I was surprised to learn that this game got a completely new cast to play the characters. If I hadn’t looked that up, for some characters I wouldn’t have been able to tell.

So, let’s move on from the story and characters and start talking about the gameplay. In this game, you have to complete several missions with a small group of characters. Each mission is different and not only in terms of the map you play on. For example, in one mission, you are trying to fight your way to the dock without any of your weapons and in another mission, your group is separated into two groups that start at the other side of the map.

Survival is awareness

If you want to survive in these missions, you have to be very aware of the characters in your crew. The main cast exists out of 5 characters. And all five of them have different weakness and strengths.

One character can throw a knife whilst the other is a sniper. Understanding their abilities and when you use them, is key. Something that this game does extremely well is that there are various ways of tackling each mission. So, you can play this game however you want.

The additional missions you can do in each chapter, give a clue on how different you can beat each mission. There are even missions where you can beat it without having to kill one guard. Whilst you are playing through a mission for the first time, the optional missions aren’t revealed to you. When you are playing through it again, then you can see the optional missions. You can earn badges for a more “perfect” score as well. On top of that, after beaten several missions, you can unlock new challenges where you can replay a mission with additional challenges and/restrictions.

The difficulty curve of this game is just polished extremely well. When a new character gets introduced, the mission is a sort of tutorial on how to use that character. I still remember that in the original game, after you rescue a character, you get a mission with barely any enemies where you learn how that character works. Not in this game. You get various “papers” you can pick up that show a short movie on how the mechanic works. This is such a breath of fresh air.

Something I adore in this game as well is the quick save and the quick load system. You might think that this mechanic is quite aggressive. Since, when you haven’t saved in a hot minute, you get a pop-up almost in the middle of your screen. But believe you me, it’s a great reminder. It makes this game way less frustrating when you make a tiny mistake or want to try something. Also, when you accidentally quick save in a situation that leaves you in a sort of soft lock, in the pause menu you always have your three last saves. So, you can roll back further when needed.

A big improvement compared to the first game as well is the speed up & the pause feature. With a simple press of a button, you can slightly speed up the gameplay. Which can be handy to speed up the patrol of a guard you are trying to sneak past. Now, the pause feature is something quite special. With this feature, you can pause the game and plan out a choreography to take down various enemies at once. You can cue up one character double shot while another character sneaks in to give a deadly shot to the third enemy. Once I was able to take out a patrol of five enemies with one pause and let me tell you how amazing it fells when it all goes to plan.

Apart from understanding how your characters work, it’s also quite important to understand your enemies. There are several groups of enemies that each have their unique traits. For example, you have Poncho enemies who don’t react to traps and distractions. And you have long coat enemies who are difficult to take out and need three hits to be taken out. And if you don’t take them out in one time, and they spot you, and they hit you… Well, instead game over.

With a simple right click on an enemy, you can make their view cone appear. As soon as you walk in their view cone, you can get spotted. When moving a character, you need to get out of the view cone before it goes red. Since, as soon as it turns red, an alarm is raised and nearby enemies come to help and track you down. But, you can also “view cone surf” where you sneak from one view cone to the next. Confusing the surrounding enemies can possibly be sneaking away.

Let’s do this again.

In the previous section, I mostly explained how the gameplay works. I only explained some of the more basic mechanics. The whole puzzle aspect of this game and the quick thinking you have to do in this game is quite addictive. While I’m playing through this game on the easiest difficulty setting, I still feel that this game is quite challenging.

I tried to play this game on higher difficulty settings, and it’s too brutal for my tastes. Thankfully, you aren’t punished with too many fewer mechanics or other penalties because you aren’t playing on the highest difficulty setting. The gameplay is still addicting. It’s a prefect example of “easy to play but hard to master”. Just like I said in the previous section, awareness of everything is key in this game. Awareness of where you hide your characters, how many enemies are around, who has which abilities, which opportunities you have to kill or knock out an enemy, blind spots …

Now, in order for this style of game to work, you’ll need a good set of controls. And this game controls amazingly. The controls are fast and responsive and apart from some minor moments I don’t have any problems with them. Something I struggle with sometimes is remembering that certain actions like throwing a torch required me to press an additional button. Or that when I want to retrieve the knife, I don’t have to pick up the dead body.

I rarely use the keyboard shortcuts for my characters to preform actions. But did you also know that you can totally remap them to however you want? It’s mind blowing that this game allows you to do that. It’s a great tool to customize and personalize the game to your liking.

So, the gameplay in this game is a blast. I rarely felt that the game cheated me out. And the quick save and quick load system makes this game a ton more fun. Something I can appreciate as well is how detailed this game is. Visually, this game looks stunning. For the low system specs that this game requires, this game is turning out mighty fine visuals. Also, I haven’t noticed any moments where the frame rate stuttered or went down to unplayable numbers.

Maybe it’s because of my playstyle, but I sometimes wish I took more time to enjoy the visual presentation of this game. The environments, the animations of this game… they look amazing. The run that the citizens do to get away from danger is just beyond funny. It’s a sort of Naruto run and I often have a hard time focusing on the mission when I see them running.

In addition to that, the music of this game is just pure ear candy. It’s very memorable but also a blast to listen outside the game. When I’m writing an article about a game, I usually listen to the soundtrack in the background. This article is no different and whilst listening to the soundtrack I was able to play the missions inside my head.

Add to that, the great sound effects that add to the atmosphere of this game, and you have a top-notch audiovisual design. I don’t have any complaints about them. They help me quite a lot during the game. Especially, they can be great to know if you are spotted or not.

So far, I have mostly been raving about this game. Are there actually things I didn’t like about this game? Well, to be honest, I don’t have a lot of negative things to say. There is one mission I disliked beyond belief, and I was stuck at for quite a long time. But, when I was passed it, I was able to play through this game and continue enjoying it. Later, I returned to that mission, and I was able to beat it more easily because I got more used to some characters.

The only thing I could criticize in this game is that the hint system isn’t flawless. Often times, I had it bug out on me and giving me hints to parts of the mission I had already completed. But, it’s a mechanic you can just let aside.

In conclusion, I personally think that if you enjoyed the original games, find the concepts I have explained in this article interesting, enjoy stealth/tactical gameplay and/or enjoy action-puzzle games… I seriously think that this game is worth checking out. I’d highly recommend this game on PC, since I don’t think you can translate the complex controls on a controller too well.

I have barely any negative things to say about this game, so I think it won’t be a surprise that I boot up this game again after publishing this article. It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish and really tests your skills that you learn through playing this game. The witty banter between the characters or the enemies you can listen in are such a blast or can even give you a hint on how to beat the mission.

And with that said, I think I have said everything that I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed playing 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.

A tale about the original Legend of Zelda

Editorial note: this article is from @timbledsoe689. The reason it’s republished here is that his website got taken down due to events out of his control. In mutual agreement, we are republishing the article here to give it a new home. Apart from fixing a few typos… there is no difference between this publication and the original.

There I was, twelve or thirteen years old, in a quiet corner of a Sears department store. It was
midday, and no one else was around the lone Nintendo kiosk with its strange rectangle
controllers. As I picked up the now iconic but then alien controller, I had no idea my life was
about to be changed.


The video games I had played before were all in the arcade. I had played Atari at a friend’s
house once, but the abstract dots and lines and harsh bleeps and bloops never caught my
attention. The arcade games were better, with better graphics and sound, and a better sense of
what you were supposed to be doing. But even the arcade games never held my attention, they
seemed like simple experiences limited to one usually burned out CRT screen. The Legend of
Zelda was different.


It was mid-summer and my dad had dropped us off at the mall for a few hours to get us out of
his thinning hair. After the usual wandering, I came across this Nintendo kiosk and started
playing. There was no time limit, no line. The opening screen had beautiful music and this
intriguing screen that promised a great adventure.

was blown away by the freedom I had exploring Hyrule. I could travel any of the four compass
directions in a land that had realistic geographic boundaries like mountains and lakes. Going
any direction was a revelation; all games I’d played before had been single screen like Pac-Man
or Centipede. Side scrolling games like Super Mario Bros. were out there, but I hadn’t played
Then, and besides, that was just one direction. The Legend of Zelda let you go anywhere! Well,
almost.


It didn’t take long for me to run into monsters that took bites out of my three red hearts, killing
me and sending me back to the beginning. Soon enough, I found the strange old man in the
cave uttering the words that are now on 1000 T-shirts, “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”
Armed with my new sword, I went back and took my revenge on the beasties who had
destroyed me earlier. But I still died a lot, as each enemy moved and attacked in different ways.
It would be several months later until I even learned how to use my shield to block Octorock and
other monster’s projectiles. The Tektites were my least favorite, leaping at me from above in (to
me at the time) unpredictable frightening death dealing drops.


Avoiding some monsters, I explored as far as I could. Along the way I discovered that stones
could sometimes be pushed, some shrubs could be slashed with the sword. My sense of
wonder increased with each discovery. I found a magical fairy fountain that replenished my
hearts. More strange old men in caves selling items.


I had just discovered my first dungeon in a tree on an island, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
Was it someone else wanting to play at the Sears kiosk? No, it was mall security. Apparently I’d
been playing for four hours, lost all track of time, and forgotten to go back to my pickup point in
the mall. My father had contacted mall security, and they were all looking for me!
That time with the demo of The Legend of Zelda profoundly affected me. Not only would I start a
lawn mowing business, so I could save up for a NES and a 13-inch TV, but my interest in gaming
was cemented At that moment. It’s safe to say that I would not be writing on games blogs now if
it weren’t for that day.


That was my own personal introduction to the Legend of Zelda, but the game had quite a
worldwide impact as well. It was a bestseller for Nintendo, selling over 6.5 million copies. The
game is almost always included in any list of influential video games that have shaped the
industry. In The Legend of Zelda, there are 8 pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom to collect before
you can rescue Zelda. In a similar vain, I thought I would list 8 great things about The Legend of
Zelda, that when combined form a greater whole.

Exploration


For its time, The Legend of Zelda had a large, sprawling map. It was divided into squares
co-responding with what could be displayed on the screen. When the player leaves the edge of
the screen, the view shifts to the next square on the grid, which might seem jarring and limited
now, but in 1986, felt like a vast wilderness to explore. There were green forests, gray
graveyards, brown deserts and mountains, and blue streams and lake. Yes, it might seem
simple by today’s standards, but the brightly colored map allowed the player to fill in details with
their imagination and there was always the feeling that something magical would be discovered
on the next screen. Game Designer Shigeru Miyamoto drew inspiration for the game from
memories of his childhood exploring caves, forests, and streams around Kyoto. “When I was a
child,” said Miyamoto, “I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise for me to stumble
upon it. When I traveled around the country without a map, trying to find my way, stumbling on
amazing things as I went, I realized how it felt to go on an adventure like this.”


Secrets


Almost every screen of the map held a secret to be discovered. That differently colored crack in
the wall? Bomb it for a secret passage. Three stones in a row? Push them to reveal a trapdoor.
Bushes could also be burned to reveal entrances, and there were a few other ways to interact
with the environment, once the proper tools were acquired. Once the player figured out a lot
was hidden under the surface, they were encouraged to spend more time in each area, and it
made the areas something to explore, not just rush through.


Items and Tools


Sometimes the player would be certain an area held a secret, but there was no way to interact
with the suspicious item in the environment. That’s ok! After playing the game for a while, the
player knew they would beat a dungeon later that would give them an item that would let them
tackle that spot. For example, maybe you can now burn that gnarled tree thanks to the Blue
Candle you just earned. By the way, anyone who says anything other than the Magical
Boomerang is the best item is just dead wrong!
Monsters
While a few monsters such as the goblin-like Moblins or Wizzrobes felt familiar for a fantasy
game, The Legend of Zelda, introduced many unique monsters. Pesky Octroks flung stones at
you from Qbert like mouths, Tektites bounced toward you like your worst nightmare, and who
could forget the crazy spinning Leevers? Seriously, were they a plant or an animal? Some of the
most terrifying (and my favorite) monsters were reserved for the dungeons. These monsters
could not only kill you, they could make your life difficult. Once you were trapped in the
snakelike grasp of a Like Like, you would lose your precious shield! Or if you were scooped up
by the ominous floating handed Wall Master, it was back to the start of the dungeon for you, all
progress lost.


Dungeons


Dungeons were the treats the game rewarded you for exploring. Twisted challenging mazes
with traps, rooms that would go dark, and their own set of monsters, dungeon were a challenge
you loved to hate. In the days before the internet, it was not uncommon to be stuck in a
dungeon for a while until you talked to a friend or gave up and called the Nintendo game play
counselor. Yes, that was a thing. And if you reached the center of the dungeon, your reward
was a special Boss monster! In a whimsical touch, the grids of the dungeons were shaped after
creatures like eagles, dragons, and demons. For all the frustration, the dungeons of the Legend
of Zelda were somehow one of the aspects of the game I remember most fondly.

Sound and Music

Composer and sound director of the series, Koji Kondo had very limited hardware to create
sounds and music for the game. Yet, with scratchy percussion and tinny horns, he managed to
create a theme that was beautiful and evocative. Although I will confess I enjoy versions of the
theme played with real instruments, I still get nostalgic when I hear it in its original 8-bit glory.
The game sounds were fantastic too. I still to this day feel elation when I hear the sound of Link
acquiring a new item!


Second Quest


Other games have done it before and since, but it was still neat that after you beat the game,
you could play “The Second Quest”. While most of the Overland areas were laid out the same,
the dungeons were laid out much differently, and the enemies were harder. Back when the
game came out, games weren’t released as often as they are now and were quite expensive, so
in effect, doubling the content of the game was a very nice thing for Nintendo to do. Word soon
spread on the playground back in the day that you could access the Second Quest right from
the beginning by typing “Zelda” as your player’s name!


The Gold cartridge


There was just something cool about seeing the gold Legend of Zelda cartridge next to all the
standard gray NES carts in your collection. Nintendo knew they had something epic and special
with this game, and I’m glad they chose to celebrate it with the extra effort and expense to
modify their normal manufacturing process and give us something nice. In the day of more and
more games being downloaded directly, something as cool as a gold cartridge becomes an
even rarer


If you’ve never played The Legend of Zelda, I hope this article gave you a taste of what made it
such an amazing experience at the time. This blog is part of a larger series explores the history
of the series and its major entries. Be sure to check out the hub article via this link for links to all the
great articles and retrospectives on this epic series.

It’s almost there! 2022. It’s TOP 10 TIME!

It’s that time of the year again, it’s time to create lists. For the 11 years I have been blogging right now, I have created a tradition of writing two lists at the end of the year. A list of my favorite games I have played in the past year, and a list of the games I’m most excited about in the upcoming year. Today, it’s time to talk about what I’m so hyped to play next year. Since some amazing titles are coming out next year and I can’t wait to play them and/or review them on my blog. So, this is going to be my top 10 list of games I want to play in 2022. What’s your list? Feel free to leave it in the comment section down below, and let’s see how much better we are going to be playing in 2022.

#10 – Sports Story (Nintendo Switch – TBA)

I’m a huge fan when it comes to playing RPG/adventure games that put a spin on your typical “fight the enemy” or “save the world”. Now, when I learned about this game, I was hyped right away.

The reason I placed it so low on my list is that I’m afraid that a lot of the sports gameplay is going to be rhythm or reflexes based, which are two things that I’m not too good at in games and that might ruin it a bit for me. But, then again, looking at the trailer and the promotional material, this game looks quite promising.

Now, I know that this game doesn’t have a release date set in stone yet, so it might be not for 2022… But hey, if this one comes out in 2022, you can be sure that I’m going to play it!

#9 – Yurukill: The Calumniation Games (Nintendo Switch, June 10th)

I wish I could put this game higher on my list. But, the bullet hell gameplay worries me a bit. I easily get frustrated by bullet hell games, but I still enjoy playing them.

But, this game is an escape game that gives off a lot of Zero Escape and Danganrompa vibes and I love it. Also, it’s being developed by the creators of Death Come True and World’s End Club.

I’m quite curious to see what’s going to become of this game. How much they are going to blend the escape-the-room style of gameplay with bullet hell… It is two very different gameplay styles that don’t fit at all, and this might be crazy enough to work.

And even when I’m afraid that the bullet hell sections might frustrate me, since I’m not that good at them… Still, I want to see the end result. And who knows, maybe by playing this game, I might become interested in bullet hell games… We’ll have to wait and see.

#8 – The Cruel King and the Great Hero (Nintendo Switch, March 31st)

You know that moment when you see a trailer, and you fall in love with the art style, setting, and atmosphere right away? This is one of those games to me.

This game looks like a simple, charming RPG game that’s going to have a coming-of-age story.

At first glance, it might look mediocre and a game you might skip. But I think that would be a shame. Since this game looks adorable and charming, and it reminds me how I fell in love with Fantasy Life on the 3DS. A game can also be charming, enjoyable, and relaxing to be fun. And I’m sure this is going to be one of the games I’m going to play next year to wind down after a long day at work. And that’s one of the biggest reasons I’m looking forward to this game.

You know what, it also reminds me off? Like a storybook game. Where you go from location to location and stories are told to children to teach them life lessons. A bit like the core story concept of Blossom Tales.

#7 – Mario + Rabbids – Sparks of Hope (Nintendo Switch, TBA)

Throughout this year, I have been slowly chipping away at the Mario + Rabbits game. I have been distracted by so many other games, I didn’t finish the original.

But, then out of nowhere in a Nintendo Direct, this game got dropped. And I’m so happy to see this happen. The original game is an amazing mash-up of both worlds, and it would be a shame if it was a one-time spin-off.

And now we are getting a sequel. I feel it’s more than well deserved. The passion and love put into the first game… So, I have some time to finish the first game, so I can dive right into the next game next year. So, I know what I’m going to play right after this article is published.

#6 – Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

The amount of times I wanted to start playing Advance Wars 1/2 or purchase my own copy via a second-hand website, is just crazy. I always wanted to give this series a try after I heard so many amazing things about it from other people I follow and YouTubers I watch.

But, next year is going to be my chance. I’ll be able to play both games and more in the remake. A big turn-based strategy game that started on a handheld that helped shape my childhood, the Game Boy Advance, is going to come to the Nintendo Switch.

And maybe, with a subtitle like “Re-Boot Camp”, it might mean we get an Advance Wars 3… It might be the reboot we are waiting for. So, I’m ready to enter the tanks in the Spring of 2022 and fight alongside Andy and the others.

#5 – The Stanley Parable – Ultra Deluxe (PC – Early 2022)

This game has been delayed since 2019 till early 2022. I honestly think that each and every time, the developers had more ideas and wanted to improve the game even more.

Now, as a writer and a gamer, I’m in love with the concept of the Stanley Parable that turns the story-telling in games on its head. So, the promise of seeing more of this, well, you don’t have to tell me twice.

So, I already wishlisted the game on Steam. The only thing I can do now is wait… Right Stanley? Did I follow the correct path? I think so, I haven’t taken a wrong turn anywhere…

#4 – Kirby And The Forgotten Land (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

The last mainline Kirby game was Kirby Star Allies, way back in 2018. We got two spin-off games in the meantime, but Kirby is going to be back in 2022. And not only that, it’s going to be one of three open-world games from Nintendo in the upcoming year.

Yes, I couldn’t believe my ears. An open-world Kirby game. And yes, one of three. Anyways, I always wanted to play an open-world Kirby game. Well, honestly, I wanted to play a 3D Kirby game where you can explore the whole world.

And with this entry in the Kirby series, my wish came true. We shall be able to explore the forgotten lands and together with Kirby we shall uncover the secrets of the Forgotten Land.

#3 – Pokémon Legends Arceus (Nintendo Switch, January 28th)

I honestly think I don’t have to explain myself why I’m so crazy hyped about this game. It’s what Pokémon fans have been asking, begging GameFreak and Nintendo for years. Ever since the first generations, we always wanted a 3D Pokémon game where you can run around and catch Pokémon. Something more than what the main series is offering. Something where you can explore a world freely and maybe use Pokémon to your advantage.

And Pokémon Legends Arceus promises to deliver that. A sort of Breath of the Wild version of Pokémon. I’m really avoiding all released press materials, so I can go into this game as blind as possible. The only thing I have seen is the initial trailer and I also read the news that new materials have improved the frame rate of the game.

While I’m fully aware that we all have an extremely high bar set for this game… I’m going to play it with an open mind. I’m going to try and silence my critical voice in my head while playing this game and let this game’s atmosphere do the work. Since, I’m also silently hoping that this style of Pokémon will be a spin-off series or maybe… Even more. The next generation of gameplay.

#2 – The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild 2 (Nintendo Switch, TBA 2022)

I’m crossing my fingers so hard that this game doesn’t get another delay. Since, I really want to play this game. It’s the 3rd open-world game scheduled for 2022 by Nintendo, and it’s one of the most anticipated games of Nintendo so far.

While I personally miss the top-down Zelda gameplay and first, I wasn’t too fond of the changes in Breath of the Wild, I have to admit that the game grew on me. It added so much more freedom to explore the unique mechanics and gameplay, instead of some items being under-used.

And from what we have seen from the sequel, this game is going above and beyond. From going through floors, skydiving and rewinding time… Man, the possibilities for puzzles and challenges is just huge. I can’t wait. But, if a delay is needed to polish up the game and/or iron out bugs… I wouldn’t mind a delay but on the other hand…

#1 – AI The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

Creating this list, and especially the top 5 was extremely difficult. There are so many good games coming out in 2022, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to play all the games I want to play.

Now, why did I put this game on top? Well, since I have the feeling that this game is going to be one of my favorite games I’m going to play in 2022.

When I played the original game, I was so impressed and blown away… I mean, it was almost my favorite game of 2019.

I’m a huge fan of Kotaro’s Uchikoshi’s work. Especially after the Zero Escape series, which I tend to quote in real life sometimes. And seeing a new game from him, made me extremely happy.

Which mysteries is this game going to bring? Since, you would think that the original game wrapped up everything with a nice bow on top of it. But nope, our beloved cast of characters is coming back and we are going to have a new adventure. I’m so ready!

Final thoughts

You might have noticed that my whole list is almost only Switch games. That’s because due to my busy personal life and events, I mostly play on my retro consoles or on my Switch. Currently, I have no major interest in buying an XBOX or PS5, since there aren’t enough games for me to justify buying those consoles. The same with PC games, the new PC games don’t grab my interest enough for me to upgrade my setup.

Maybe the ports of God Of War and Uncharted might be the games that make me consider upgrading my setup… But then, you have a sequel to Blossom Tales or Coffee Talk and then I get even less interested in upgrading my setup.

Then again, you have the Vampire: The Masquerade sequel… But that’s also coming out on Switch. And I also keep forgetting that huge pile of retro games I still have backlogged. 2022 will be a big year in gaming and for me personally, and I can’t wait to see where it will take me. So, 2021 is almost over and it’s time to wrap it up in the next article(s) and prepare ourselves for 2022. Since, it’s going to be big.

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

First Impression: Abyss of the Sacrifice (Switch) ~ Puzzlerooms To Sacrifice

Age warning: This game is 16+.

Wikipedia entryNintendo.com microsite

I might be a day late for Halloween, but today on the day after, I still want to talk about a somewhat horror related game. As regular readers of my blog know, I’m an avid fan of the Zero Escape trilogy. So, when I saw this game pop up on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I had to give it a try. I enjoyed my time with it that much, that it even slipped in my top 10 games of 2020. Why did I give this game a spot there? Well, let me explain why, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Puzzlerooms to sacrifice

This game follows the story of 5 girls who are left in the “Foundation”. This is a strange place underground that has been built for some reason that everybody has forgotten. It doesn’t take long before our 5 heroines meet each other and strange things like earthquakes start happening. And let’s not forget, since everybody is gone from the Foundation, food and water supplies are getting more difficult to come by every day.

I don’t want to talk much about the story, since it hinges on its mystery quite a lot. It’s that sort of story where you are left in the dark about everything right from the start, but the further you go in the story the more gets explained. I do highly recommend playing this game without a break like I did. I had to restart my playthrough since I completely forgot what was going on, and I got confused.

Something that took me by surprise is the fact that this game is fully voice acted, in Japanese. Now, this makes my job of reviewing this game a bit more difficult. I barely know any Japanese, so take what I’m going to say next with a grain of salt. But, I feel that the voice acting is pretty good. I really felt the emotional performance of the voice actors and I feel they did an amazing job.

Something I really did like is how there are some cliché characters, like your doctors’ girl and the patient that went in and out of hospitals but the interaction and the backstory of these characters is handled in such a unique way, it feels quite fresh and unique. The story itself is getting quite interesting at the moment where I’m at, and I’m so glad I choose the Switch version over the Steam version since now I can take it with me on the train from and to work.

Visually, the game looks amazing. The artwork really immersed me into the world and the story. Together with the great music and sound design, I really felt like I was exploring a mystery in the Foundation. Sometimes, an important item blended into the scenery, but it gave off a small sparkle, so you didn’t have to go pixel hunting.

I really like the hint system in this game. At any time, without a penalty, you can in the menu to the “Hint” system, and you can look at the hints. Only the hints that help you to get further in the puzzle are unlocked. The ones you need later in the puzzle aren’t accessible and not even shown. The minor negative you could say that this system brings is that it somewhat spoils the length of the room, but that’s a minor thing in my opinion.

You can play this game out of order. So, each time you finish a chapter, you unlock the next entries of the story of each girl. You can play them in any order you like. To avoid getting even more confused about what’s going on, I played them somewhat in order. But, it’s a great thing that if you get stuck on one puzzle, you can stop it and go to another girl to try on that puzzle later. And believe you me, the puzzles can get quite challenging. I even had to get out a pen and paper for several puzzles to solve it.

The controls and the UI of this game is something to be praised. The only minor negative thing is that there is no real autosave, but you can save easily at any time in an overload of save slots. The amount of options is a good to have, so that way you can adjust your experience to your liking. And the easy to learn controls are shown in the options menu in case that you forgot one or two buttons.

Escape is not needed

Sadly enough, this game does have some flaws. In terms of variation, this game doesn’t have a lot of it. This game is a visual novel with some escape the room elements thrown in. But, there are some things that the visual novel sections don’t do all to well. First, the contrast of the text with the background isn’t always the best. I sometimes had trouble reading the text. Thankfully, my English is pretty decent, and I can make out the words, but I can image that it’s going to be quite annoying for people who aren’t so good at English.

Something else that really bothered me is the fact that it’s sometimes a bit unclear who is talking to who in the dialogue sections. There is no real “speaking” animation. That’s a shame, since I’m that kind of person who has a hard time remembering names. I was so glad that in World’s End Club, you had that overview screen with the names and abilities. Even in the backlog it’s unclear who is talking.

Speaking of which, when I looked into the backlog of this game… I found some strange things in the writing. This game sometimes jumps from 1st person to 3rd person writing. A great example where you can get easily confused is this one:

Suddenly, she felt a sharp tug on her arm.

"Huh?"

I didn't fall....?

As she blinked in disbelief, a voice called out above her.

That’s exactly how it appears in the game. If only a different styling was used for thoughts OR keep writing in either 1st or 3rd person, this could have improved the writing.

There were some moments of frustration as well during the puzzle segments. For example, in one room, I had to pick up a robot from the cleaning station but the area I could click to pick it up was almost completely overlapped by the “Exit screen” UI. So, be really precise with your clicks or otherwise, you’ll be stuck while you have the correct solution. Thankfully, if you find the joystick movement controls a bit too fast like me, you can use the D-pad to solve that issue.

Sadly enough, some puzzles are a bit too tricky for my liking. Even with the hint system. One time I got stuck because I tried to combine item A with B, and it didn’t work… The solution was combining item B with A. Which brings me to talk about the interface you use to combine items. This interface is a mess in my opinion. It could have been designed a lot better, since if it wasn’t explained in the tutorial section… I would have forgotten how to use it and that it was even a mechanic.

You might have noticed that I didn’t talk about the animations in the visuals’ section of this review. That’s because, there was so much more that could have been done with the animations. I really felt that the game was a bit too static and comic-book like. There could have been so much more life into the game with a bit more animations. And in some cases, I had the impression that the animations lagged while the game was anything but lagging. But, I think it’s high time to get into the conclusion of this article before I start lagging myself and go rambling.

Conclusion

This game is the perfect example of getting pretty close to greatness but missing the mark. This game has so much going for it. The amazing artstyle, the music, the concept, the atmosphere… I don’t regret my decision to include this game in my top 10 games of 2020.

Yet, this game lacks some polish which is a real shame. Since, I can truly see some people skipping this game because of it. It even makes it a bit difficult for me to recommend this game.

When I saw the scores that other reviewers were giving for this game, I was a bit annoyed. I felt that this game was getting too low scores for what’s offered here. This game tells a great story of 5 girls trying to survive and trying to figure out what happened to the world. But some technical issues hold it back. Some can be solved with a patch like the issues with the script and such, but others like the animations… That is going to need either a big patch or a remake.

But, if you enjoy games like the Zero Escape games or Corpse Party, I would say… Check out this game. Give it a chance. But, know that this game has some flaws and you best play it without too long of a break to fully enjoy this game. I personally think that this game is totally worth your time, maybe on sale. And as soon as you get use to the quirks, the negatives aren’t too bad. So, this review is luke warm, but warm enough to recommend it with caution.

And 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 in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

First Impression: Arietta of Spirits (Switch) ~ Being Bound

Nintendo.com subsiteOfficial website

Family traditions are such a big part of families. One of the biggest family traditions in my family is that at least one person goes to the seaside each and every year. It’s a tradition I don’t want to see end since it brings back so many memories, and it’s also where my love for collecting games started. The amount of garage sales and flea markets I did at the seaside, I can’t count on two hands. Anyway, today I want to talk about a game that means a lot to me currently and also talks about family traditions. And that’s Arietta of Spirits. A little indie game by Third Spirit Games and Red Art Games. It caught my attention since it looked like an interesting Zelda-ish clone, and it reminded me of games like Blossom Tales. But is this game as good as that one? Let’s find out together, shall we? But before we start, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Being bound

In this game, you take on the role of Arietta. After the passing of her grandmother, here family takes a trip to her house on the island. Now, it doesn’t take a long time before Arietta discovers that she has a special ability when she meets a mysterious friend. She can see and talk to the spirits on the island. And not only that, she can help them move on.

Currently, I’m midway in the story and while this game has a good setting, writing and atmosphere, I feel that’s something is missing. The story is currently a bit “loose”. There is not really an overarching reason to move the story forward. If you asked me to explain what happens in the story of this game, I can talk about the characters you meet and their stories but the reason why you meet these characters and what Arietta’s end goal is… I can’t tell. Of course, there is a line in the story that “explains” it, but it’s so generic…

Now, this doesn’t mean that this game has a weak story. Far from it. The character development and writing in this game is pretty nice. But, there is a lot of wasted potential because this game is rather short. There is so much more that can be done with the story and idea, but the game is over when it really gets started.

There is no real voice acting in this game apart from some grunts by our main character. So, if you don’t like that, this isn’t the game for you. Yet, the dialogues are somewhat fast-paced and flow pretty nicely. One of the taglines of this game is that this game doesn’t have a lot of filler moments and this is quite true. This game has some side quests but barely any filler at all. Yet, I felt that some moments might have left a bigger impact if the story didn’t go on such a break neck speed.

Entry level Zelda game

If you have played games like Blossom Tales or any 2D Zelda game, you’ll feel right at home. This game is your typical 2D Zelda game where you go from dungeon to dungeon and defeat bosses. Well, they aren’t really dungeons, it is more themed area’s, but explaining that would spoil parts of the story. But, there are some unique mechanics in this game.

For example, there are two types of enemies. The first type are your normal overworld enemies. And sadly, they are your “generic” bee/bats. But, they have interesting movement patterns and learning and avoiding them is quite fun. Apart from maybe dropping a health pick-up, these enemies aren’t anything to write home about.

The other type of enemies are the “spirit” enemies. These are trickier to defeat, and after defeating these, you’ll earn crystals. Earn enough crystals to fill up a demon core, and Arietta grows stronger. It’s quite easy to farm these crystals, since enemies respawn when you leave and re-enter the area. But, I dislike the fact that when a certain core is filled, you can’t pick up any more crystals. Well, you can pick them up, but it doesn’t raise your total.

So, when you have enough crystals to power up your Roamer Cores, power it up right away. Otherwise, you’ll lose various crystals and have to grind for them. You can power your core up in the inventory menu under “Roamer Cores”.

Speaking of the inventory menu, why are there two menus in the Switch version? You have a pause menu and an inventory menu. The pause menu is opened with the “+” button and the inventory menu with the “-” button. It trips me up. Then again, I totally understand why this is the case in how the menus are designed. That’s why I call the “-” the inventory menu since it’s really the menu where you can see the inventory, your goals, your achievements… While the pause menu is more of an options menu.

A bit higher, you can see the inventory menu. From that screenshot, you can also see the various other mechanics. Like, the tasks where you have to find hidden items and the amount of hidden spirit cubs you have found. Now, you might think that you’ll need the item’s menu often, but alas. The opposite is true.

There aren’t a lot of puzzles in this game. I’m even having a hard time saying there are puzzles in this game. Maybe the fact that you need to figure out how to defeat the bosses most optimally but other than, that… There aren’t really any puzzles in this game. And if there are, they aren’t cryptic or challenging enough to matter.

Something that’s extremely puzzling is the fact that there is no world map of any kind to speak off. Thankfully, this isn’t a huge game, but the lack of a world map really hurts sometimes. Especially when I want to explore an area to complete a task. It adds so much more time roaming around. You could also argue that it makes the game a bit more realistic since when you are exploring an island, you don’t have a map either… But you can either make one or have a map printed out from the internet.

Once you get the hang of the responsive and easy to master controls, this game isn’t too challenging at all. This game really feels like it’s an entry level adventure game. And you can look at this in two ways. It can be either a relaxing time to enjoy the story, but it can be boring since it’s not “engaging” or challenging.

Thankfully, this game has difficulty options. I started on the normal difficulty and found it too easy. So, after getting halfway in the game, I wanted a bit more challenge. So, I had to use the dodge, shield mechanics more to defeat enemies and not rely on health drops from cutting down bushes. I wanted to start a new save file on extreme, and I learned I wasn’t able to skip cutscenes. I sighed, and I continued playing my “normal difficulty” save file. I can totally understand that when you play through a game for this first time you are unable to skip cutscenes, but the fact you can unlock an additional difficulty after beating the game and the fact I can’t skip cutscenes worries me a bit. But, maybe you have that option then…

Joyful lost

So, because this game doesn’t have a world map… I have to admit that I got lost a few times. But, it didn’t matter too much. I really enjoyed being able to explore the island. Especially since the pixel art and design of this game is gorgeous. I really love the visual presentation of this game. I also love the animation quite a lot.

The animation makes the game a lot more immersive, but it makes the game also easier. Since the enemies telegraph their attacks so bluntly, it makes it easier to avoid. Now, there is this small mechanic that I really like.

At first, I wanted to talk about how when you have low health in this game, you barely get any feedback from the game. But then, I noticed something. My joycons vibrated in a heart beat whenever I was on low health. This is genius. The only small touch I would add is a bit more visual feedback on the screen since when you are fighting, you might miss that rumbling, especially since you are quite focused on dodging enemies and such.

Something I also quite like in this game is how the roll is handled. You can roll around to get faster to your destination, but you have stamina. The more you roll, the more fatigued Arietta gets and the shorter her rolls are. You can see how tired Arietta is by the amount of sweat dripping down her face. This really makes me think what the most optimal way is to roll and go fast. Since, there is no sprint button.

Sometimes, I got lost in area’s with a lot of enemies. The first time I got a game over, I was quite worried where I was going to respawn. But, this game is quite forgiving in that. You respawn at the start of the screen you died at. When you die at a boss, you start right at the beginning of the battle. It’s quite nice to get directly back into the action and not have to go through the whole dialogue of the boss again or having lost a lot of progress. The game auto-saves every time you change in a screen.

The final thing I want to talk about is the audiovisual presentation of this game. Let’s start with the sound effects. These are amazing. The sound effects really help you to prepare yourself for the upcoming map and to take the right actions in combat. For example, the flying bat screeches before it flies at you, so when you hear it… You know that it’s time to dodge. But, the sound effects can be helpful too to find cubs. When you get close to one, you hear it shouting. It has a distinct sound effect that really helped me find the more hidden ones.

This brings me to the music of this game. The calm vibe and atmosphere of the game really comes through in the music. The soundtrack mostly feels like lounge and relaxing music. But, it can be quite tense when it needs to. Especially the battle music. But it fits the game like a glove.

Now, what do I think overall of this game? I haven’t beaten it yet, but what is my conclusion after getting past the midway point of this game? The charm and love of this game is something quite unique. This game does have some flaws like no overworld map, more puzzles, being able to skip cutscenes…

But, what bothers me the most is that the potential of this story and setting isn’t used to its full potential in this short game. Yet, like I said earlier, the charm of this game makes up for quite a lot of it. I can totally understand that some people might not really like this game or get bored with it, but this game really got its hooks in me. For me, this game is an easy recommendation if you are looking for a nice and relaxing game to spend an afternoon or two.

What this game proves to me is that I’m going to keep an eye out for further projects from the developers, since I really think they have a lot of potential. I’m curious what they are going to do next. If they are going to make a sequel to this game, you can be sure I’m going to buy it. The charm and love of this game is infectious.

I really enjoyed playing through this game and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. It’s really a relaxing game, and it comes at the right moment in my life when I need something to calm me down after busy work days. This game is really a case of the positives outweighing the negatives for me. But, I’m repeating myself. So, it’s time to close off this article by saying my usual:

Thank you so much for reading my 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 one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Amid Evil (PC – Steam) ~ Champion!

Steam pageWikipedia entry

In the near future, Amid Evil will have new content named The Black Labyrinth. Now, this is quite extincting, since this gives me an amazing opportunity to talk about the base game. Since, this game comes from the same studio that brought us the amazing retro-style shooter Dusk and does it live up to that name, or should we totally look elsewhere? Should we leave this game amid evil, or should we save it from evil? Well, that’s what I want to figure out with while writing this article with my first impressions about the game. So, let’s dive right into the game and talk about it, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game. So, Amid Evil… What do you get for us?

Champion !

Amid Evil is being called the spiritual successor to games like Hexen and Heretic. That’s quite a high bar to set since I really enjoy Heretic. I love the concept, and I was quite impressed with it. I remember discovering Heretic through a website that shared old DOS shareware versions of games. Now, before I get side tracked and this article turns into a half Heretic review, let’s focus on the game.

In Amid Evil, you play as one of the last standing heroes that is tasked with saving various worlds. In this game, the evil forces already took over and it’s to you, the Champion to save them. And in terms of story, that’s mostly it. This shooter pulls you right into the action. That’s not to say, that this game doesn’t have any story. Each episode has a lot of world building and builds up the various evil forces that took over those worlds in a unique theme, but if you are looking for a shooter with a strong overarching story, I’m afraid that you might be disappointed with this game.

To avoid spoilers, I’m going to talk about the next bit somewhat vague. But there are 7 episodes in this game, with each episode having 3 levels each and then a boss fight. In each level, there are various moments of lore and world building that if you really spend time with it, it tells an amazing story. The game tells just enough for you to let your imagination run wild and fill in the “story gaps”.

Due to the story taking quite the backseat in this game, there isn’t a lot of voice acting in this game. Apart from the Champion’s pain grunts, jump sounds and alike… There is only one character that really says lines. That’s the voice of the ancients, who is played by Tamara Ryan. She did an amazing job in voicing that character. I really enjoyed her comments when I returned to the level hub. And also, I wasn’t able to find out who voiced the main character, but the voice work there is amazing as well.

Now, if you have read earlier articles from me, you might expect that I’m going to say that it’s a shame that the story take such a backseat, but you would be wrong. I think the execution and the pacing of the story in this game is excellent. The story is told through the world building and because of this, each episode feels like a sort of anime arch/season with a start, middle and end. Especially, because each episode tells a different story with different enemies and ways you have to defeat the levels. The only thing that remains the same are the weapons and their abilities.

Something that remains the same are the controls. Those smooth and amazing controls. I really like how in control I feel of the Champion I play as. I also like things like the fact you can even choose how your crosshair looks in the options menu. That’s so lovely and allows you to add that personal touch to the game that I really love.

It’s shooting time

At it’s core, this game is an old-school linear shooter. The best way to somewhat explain the gameplay of this game is take games like Dusk or Blood, and put them in a dark fantasy setting. So, in this game, you through long levels, shooting your way through various enemies with various weapons. While going through the levels, you also have to hit switches, flip levers, make jumps, hunt for keys to open doors and maybe find secrets along the way. With a handy press of the tab button, you can easily see how many enemies and secrets there are left, but also your time in the level. So, there is an in-game time mode for speedrunners. Lovely.

So, let’s talk about the weapons you can use in this game. The “infinite ammo” weapon in this game is the Axe of the Black Labyrinth. It’s a rather strong weapon, but it’s extremely slow. I’m quite sure that this weapon was my least used weapon because of that slow speed. You also had to get up close and personal with the enemies for it to have effect, and the hectic and fun combat of this game doesn’t always allow that. Since, health in this game is rather precious. I’m not saying that this game is brutal, but if you don’t understand how the enemies work, the can become a lot of trouble.

Maybe the first shooting weapon in this game might be of help. It’s what I call “an upgraded version of Heretic’s staff” and it’s called the Staff of the Azure Orb in this game. While it’s far from the strongest weapon in the game, it was one of my favorite weapons to use. This is a water based weapon, so if you hit flame enemies with it, you deal some extra damage. But then again, water based enemies are immune to this weapon. So remember that well when you are fighting to use another weapon in case of water spirits.

Another weapon like the Whisper’s Edge. It might give you an edge in combat since it’s a sort of “shooting sword”. And not like you shoot energy beams from the top of the blade, oh no. You shoot “slashes”. This is a slow weapon, but it’s a very strong weapon. I see it as the shotgun of the weapons in this game. If you use it well, you can deal a lot of damage, quite fast. And that’s handy since this game likes to put you into tight rooms with a lot of enemies with their unique quirks. It’s essential to understand the weapons and the enemies in each episode, since that knowledge will help you survive the episode.

Like in the original DooM, each enemy has their own unique cry and sound effect. Learning these sound effects and playing this game with a good headset or surround system is a must. It helps you quite a lot to avoid dying over and over again in the chaotic and addictive battles. Something that also helped quite a lot is the Voltride. This is Poseidon’s trident combined with Zeus’ thunder in weapon form. Oh, do I love this weapon since it’s such a strong weapon, but it eats through your mana so quickly.

Speaking of mana, there are three types of mana in this game. Blue, Green and Orange mana. I really like the attention to detail that this game has with giving the ammo count the same color as the mana you need to pick up to power it. The first weapon in the roster with orange mana is the Celestial Claw. This bazooka of a claw shoots actual planets, and sometimes even our own Earth! Man, I love to use this weapon to try to hit a lot of enemies at once while circle strafing around the room.

The next weapon on the list if the Star of Torment. This weapon has its use cases. This is a weapon you need to learn how to use, since it’s not your typical “gun weapon”. The Star of Torment is a weapon that can cause not only splash damage to nearby enemies, but it can also nail enemies to the floor and/or walls if used correctly. I like to use it in crowded rooms to quickly damage the biggest enemies, they are easy pickings when I’m focusing myself on the weaker enemies.

My last case scenario is the Aethurnum. This weapon is quite close to a small screen nuke. It will rip out the souls of the enemies quite easily. And with these souls, you can charge up your soul meter. At a certain point, your soul meter is full and you can activate a sort of “rage mode”. In this mode, your weapons are stronger and do a lot more damage, but they also eat you a LOT more of your mana. I’m not going to spoil the alternate attacks of each and every weapon but let’s just say that the slow weapons aren’t slow anymore.

There is no armor in this game, so that means that you really need to be careful while playing this game, so you don’t die. In the levels, there are also red orbs you can collect that heal you. But be careful, sometimes it’s more recommend to either safe the orb and pick it up later, since it might not be the only time you pass through the section. But, if you learn the enemy attack patterns and really dive into how this game works, you might be able to even pass up some of those health pickups since, full is full.

Worship or not?

Visually, this game does a lot right. This game is the best cross between old school 3D shooters on the PS1, while it looks quite modern as well. The artstyle and theming in this game is superb, and if only I had a stronger gaming PC to see how the new DLSS visuals look like. Since, from what I have seen in the promotional material, the game looks even better.

As I said earlier in this article, the story in this game really takes a backseat, and the game tells you just enough to fill in the details with your imagination. Well, a lot of that has to do with the amazing work the developers did in theming each episode. For example, one episode is quite industrial themed. So, you go through old machines, use giant cog wheels to go around while you avoid robots with lasers. Another episode is more medieval themed, so you will see knights and soldiers hunting you down.

In terms of the UI, I don’t have anything I would change. I really like how you quickly get all the information you need from it. It shows you on the left, your health and your soul power and on the right, your mana and the acquired weapons. Combine that with the beautiful animations as this game has, and the package is complete.

For real, the way how enemies go into a stun animation or die, it told me all the right information I needed to know to try and survive the rather hectic fights. The same counts for the bosses. While they are quite challenging, they telegraph their attacks quite well to give you a chance to dodge and/or get to a safe spot. It makes the game even more fun to play.

A guilty pleasure of mine is that if there are cheats in the game, I like to experiment with them. The cheats in this game give this game such a nostalgic feel to me. But, then you have amazing things like you can play the episodes somewhat out of order. Like, how you can choose which level to play like in the 2nd episode of Nightmare Reaper. It’s really great stuff.

So, earlier I talked about that you need to learn the sound effects of each enemy. I said that for a reason, since the sound design in this game is really, really good. I’m so glad that I play PC games with a noise-cancelling headset, since I’m quite sure it saved me several times from dying. Combine that with an amazing soundtrack by the legendary Andrew Hulshult and the music and sound design gets a chef’s kiss… A ten out of ten. The soundtrack has been part of my work playlist for quite a long time, I love it. It fits the theming of the game like a glove.

There is a lot of attention to detail in this game, like how you have different death screens in this game tell you how you died and giving you quick and easy access to either reload the level, reload a save… The polish in this game makes it quite tricky to find negatives in this game. Yet, there are a few things I really didn’t like.

First of all, this is something I think can be fixed with a patch, but the alt+tab out of the game is extremely glitchy. I had to start and quit the game several times since it had quite a hard time remembering my screen size. It also wasn’t always active, and it switched between focus and not focused mode quite often.

The second thing, could also be fixed with a patch, but the counter in the codex isn’t always correct. Especially with the episodes. For some reason, it’s stuck at 8 for me, while it has double the pages.

But the 3rd thing is something I really disliked. The lack of a map screen. There isn’t an in-game map in this game. And if there is one, I haven’t been able to find it. While this game has great level design, and it flows quite nice, I sometimes missed in-game map to find secrets more easily. Since, some secret locations are so silly as underneath a stair.

Something I feel honestly somewhat mixed about are the power ups. There are so rare and far between, I honestly didn’t remember that this game had power-ups before I clicked open the codex for this article. While it came flooding back then, I think that there could have been much more use of these. Maybe if there is ever a multiplayer or death match or even a sort of zombie style mini-game, I think they can shine.

As you can see, this game is an excellent retro throwback shooter with a lot of polish. The fact that even after 3 years, this game gets frequent updates to polish up bugs and the game, I can’t really fault it for a lot besides not having a sort of in-game map. I really enjoyed myself with this game and I highly recommend it to everybody who enjoys playing shooters like Dusk, Nightmare Reaper, Blood, Bioshock, DooM… It’s really good. Be aware, it isn’t the easiest game you will play, but it’s a fair game, and it has that: “just one more try” attitude written all over it.

I’m really curious to see what the new DLC will bring since it will have new levels, new music and new weapons. Then, I shall wake up the champion once more to fight amid the evil and conquer it. But until then, I think I’ll end of the article here. I want to thank you so much for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: We Happy Few (PC – Steam) ~ Pop Goes The Joy

Wikipedia pageSteam pageOfficial website

Being happy is a wonderful thing. Now imagine that you can take a happiness pill that makes you happy and joyful all the time. And on top of that, imagine that participation is mandatory, and you live in bliss… That’s the situation we have in We Happy Few, the game I want to talk about today. Now, to say that this game had a rocky release with a lot of bugs and glitches is an understatement. But, now that the game isn’t in early access and out for several years and the last update being from 2019, I think it’s the best time to take a good look at this game and if it’s really worth our time or that we should pop a Joy to cover up this game. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game. Ready, let’s go!

Pop goes the Joy

In We Happy Few, we take on the role of Arthur. Somebody who is working for the newspaper and censoring unhappy articles. When he suddenly sees a picture of his brother, he gets a lot of flashbacks that makes him stop popping his mandatory Joy. What is Joy? Well, like I explained in the introduction paragraph of this article, it’s a drug that makes people extremely happy and that’s mandatory to take or else you will be killed or exiled to the slums. People who don’t take Joy and don’t see the dangers of the world be camouflaged by the drug’s effects are called Downers and are shunned by all the Joy takers.

Now, how did the world get to this place? Well, that’s something for you to find out. The concept and setup of this game is excellent and I personally think it’s amazing. I feel like I’m playing a game like Bioshock or Prey again. Somewhat open-world yet linear-ish games that take you on a journey through a deep and rich story. And from what I have played so far, We Happy Few certainly delivers upon that front in my opinion.

Couple this with amazing voice acting that really helped me to get even more immersed into the world and the game, I don’t have any complaints about the story and the delivery. The pacing is also good. Everything gets some depth, but it doesn’t stay on one subject for too long. Some sections feels a bit too small in my opinion but thinking about it again, it would ruin the great world building that this game does.

I can forgive the fact that there are a lot of lines repeated when you talk to the townsfolk because the way the towns are populated adds so much to the atmosphere, and it makes the game even more immersive. The fact I can interact with every person on the street, and they play a random line with the accompanying animation, it’s delightful. If this concept is tried again, I think it would be great if it had a bit more lines and variations between the townsfolk.

Anyways, that’s more then enough about the story and the setting. Let’s talk about the other aspects of this game. It’s possible that even when this game has a nice story and setting, the game isn’t fun to play. Remember that I talked about various technical issues in the opening paragraph of this article? Well, I’m sad to say that there are still several technical issues. Thankfully, most of them are visual oddities but nothing game breaking anymore. I once had a dead enemy instead of dying, t-posing and following me around the map.

Only I time during a mission, I was afraid that my save file got cursed by a technical glitch, but exiting and restarting the game solved that issue with me loosing only 2-ish minutes of progress, since that isn’t too bad. The auto-saving in this game works miracles! And you can still manually save whenever you wish in 10 save slots just in case you want to experiment in this game. Or want to make a safety save or make a safe you can use whenever you want to also finish side quests.

Emotional Telephone Booths

You could play this game without using any Joy, but I highly recommend against it. Simply because it isn’t that much fun always running from everybody, and the stealth in this game isn’t that good to hide away. Since, when you are seen, you can’t hide until you are off the radar, and you find a good spot. And if you think, let’s fight the enemies then… Do think again. Since, when you get violent, people act like Zombie Pigman in Minecraft. They make other people around you hostile, and you quickly get piled up.

In those moments, it’s recommended you find a telephone booth to pop Arthur’s favorite strawberry Joy and try to go to an area where the folks people aren’t angry at you. Since, the Joy is a timed mechanic. At the upper left part of your screen, you see a sort of timer that indicates for how much longer you under the effects of Joy. When that meter runs out, you better find a source of Joy OR hide from the surrounding people, since not taking Joy is a crime. Oh, and don’t overdose on Joy either since that’s going to be a bad trip.

So, how does this game play like? Well, this game is more a sort of adventure game. You can pick up various items to either play this game more stealthy, or play like me and go all in and don’t care about what happens. The difficulty of this game highly depends on how good you understand the mechanics of this game. Do you understand the crafting system and where each item spawns or do you understand how to skill tree works and how to use your points to buy the best abilities…

Something that you will have to understand is how the compass at the middle of your screen works. It tells you a lot about your situation and nearby quests. You can even select which quest you are tracking, like in the Fallout games. I wish other games had that too, since in Prey for example… You have several tracks on the screen that all lead to your active quests. Sometimes markers even say: “multiple objectives”.

There are several other mechanics in this game like a hunger, thirst and sleep system. While those meters can deplete, they don’t affect the game too much, sadly. Most of the effects in the game you have from this system is that your stamina depletes a bit faster, and you have to attack more. It’s a shame, really, since it could be an amazing mechanic. It feels undercooked and it shows. The fact that finding food and drinks in the world isn’t easy, or beds for that matter.

So, when you lose all your health, you get set back at the latest checkpoint, and you can try again. Overall, the game is somewhat forgiving in my opinion. I have seen games that are more difficult. I personally felt I was able to breeze through the game somewhat and if I did die or hit a roadblock, just trying it again from another angle seemed to help. During my playthrough, I didn’t have a lot of weapons, so I had to improvise and running in the open fields with a quickly recharging stamina bar helped me quite a lot. Since, most enemies aren’t THAT fast.

Something this game does quite well in the UI. I find the UI spotless and to the point. You get a lot of information without it having too much information or getting confusing. Some things in the UI are a bit clunky, like how you can’t multicraft or discard multiple items at once when you are overburdened, but I got extremely quickly used to it.

While this game has some minor negatives, I find this game quite enjoyable to play. I really like solving the puzzle in taking just enjoy Joy and the right items to craft the right things, so I can survive another mission and encounter. Since, experiencing the humor and world building that this game provides is so fitting for the gameplay and so enjoyable.

To Joy or not to Joy

I could start and go nitpicking on how certain animations look a bit weird or how some bodies ragedoll extremely weird, but honestly, I think it doesn’t really matter because the art team of this game did an amazing job on this game. Not only does this game run smoothly on my 1050Ti, it also looks pretty good.

I really have to applaud the effort in the difference you can see if you are or aren’t under the influence of Joy. It looks very differently depending on if you take or don’t take any Joy. And it even looks different when you overdose or take drugs. Speaking of which, I really like the intrusive messages that discourage drug use in real life. It talks about how your combat abilities in the game are improved, but it has very negative and different effects in real life.

Apart from some very occasional nitpicks, visually this game looks great, and I’m sure it’s going to hold up for quite a while. The lush fields and the amazing cities with a lot of attention to detail are really commendable. No wonder that with so much visual stuff going on, that sometimes residents are sitting on the air in front of a bench. You can’t simply account for every edge case. If I can give one sort of nitpick in terms of the visuals, I think a bit more character models for the citizens would be great since once I tried to get the whole city to chase me and I did see a LOT of duplicates… I don’t mind duplicates, but if you have 10-ish of the same guy chasing you… ah well, it ruins the good character model just a bit.

On top of this great visual design, you have some amazing sound design. The sound effects in this game are great. They fit the art style and the atmosphere quite well, and it gave me the right information to assess the situation. And not only that, it helped to immerse me quite a lot into this game. The little sirens for example to let you know you are caught and people are looking for you are a great tool to know you have to escape and hide until the sirens stops.

If you have read my blog in the past, you know I find the music in a game quite important. And does this game deliver? Yes. Yes, it does. The soundtrack is quite pleasing and fits the atmosphere quite well. It wouldn’t surprise me that I’m going to add the soundtrack to my playlists after I have played the game a bit more or if I have beaten it. Actually, I think I might just add it to my playlists after publishing this article.

All in all, this game highly surprised me when I saw the trailer, and I was afraid when I heard the news of the technical issues. But, then I gave this game a try and I have to say that I really like this game. It has its quirks that I had to get used to but it didn’t take long before I was running around with the fluent and responsive controls. I might have to learn the combat system a bit more, but I panic too easily in those sorts of situations and I tend to “mash the attack button and strafe” mostly. Whoops.

Do I recommend this game? Yes, I do. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys playing adventure games in the genre of Bioshock, Prey, Alice in Wonderland… but might want to have a bit less shooting action in the game. It’s a unique game that really deserves a chance. It won’t be a perfect, flawless experience, but it doesn’t matter. And no, I didn’t take a Joy to write this segment. I really do enJoy … sorry, lame pun. I really do enjoy playing this game and can’t wait to see how it continues. Together with Prey, this game is going to fill my summer quite nicely. A summer full of joy and amazing adventures, one in space but this one… it’s an adventure on earth were not following the norm is going to move you forward and it teaches some nice life lessons when you think about it in that way.

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 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!