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First Impressions: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night (Switch) ~ Middle Ages Magic.

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

So, a new Metroidvania game has been released. The Metroidvania genre is one of my favorite style of games. When I heard that Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame was the director of this game, I was beyond hyped. I even mentioned this game in my top 10 games I wanted to play in 2019. And, yes, the game was even twice on that sort of list. Anyways, this game was a Kickstarter game were major flops like Mighty Number 9 and major hits like A Hat In Time. Where does this game fall? On the major flops or on the amazing titles part of the spectrum? Let’s find out in this first impressions article. Also, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. A small editor note I have to make is that I have played this game before and after the visual improvement patches applied, and I will keep this in mind for this review.

Middle Ages Magic

During the Industrial Revolution, the Alchemy Guild got scared of losing their followers and patrons. So, they decided to create Shardbinders. These are humans who are forcibly fused with demonically charged crystals. Thanks to these crystals, the Shardbinders obtained magical powers. Everything was peaceful until the Fire Nation attacked, well sorta. Kinda. The Shardbinders were sacrificed and abused to summon demons from Hell (let’s be honest, this is a sort of Fire Nation. 😉 ). Now, this whole plan backfired and brought mass destruction over the whole of England. Thankfully, the Church was able to intervene and save some areas of destruction.

Two shardbinders survived the whole massacre, Gebel and Miriam. Ten years after the incidents, Miriam wakes up from her unnatural slumber and finds out that Gebel has summoned another demon to continue the revenge of the Shardbinders on what the alchemists did to him. Miriam starts her journey accompanied by Johannes, who is a former member of the Alchemy Guild. Miriam wants to stop Gebel before the whole world is destroyed.

The story itself is nothing that special. To be quite frank, the story didn’t really grab my attention. Now, I have reviewed two Castlevania games in the past: Castlevania – Portrait of Ruin and Castlevania – Lords Of Shadow – Mirror Of Shadow and of both these games, I don’t remember a lot about the story. It’s a shame since the story has quite a lot of potential to go quite in-depth and in different directions. The story takes a backseat in this game, to a point that sometimes the story is used as a sort of in-game guide. Like, when you have defeated a boss and you talk to one of the members of the Church, she straight up tells you (this isn’t an exact quote but it’s quite similar): “I have heard rumors that one of the high ranking officers can jump again in the air. (…) You need to look for a tower where…”

Now, the cast of the voice actors of this game is just mindblowing. Miriam is voiced by Erica Lindbeck who voiced Barbie herself in a few movies and also voiced one of the leading characters in Fire Emblem Echoes. Gebel is voiced by Ray Chase who’s a voice you can also hear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as Roy and in Final Fantasy 15 as Noctis. Zangetsu is voiced by a voice acting legend by the name of David Hayter who is famous for his voice work on Solid Snake. You can dig deeper into the voice cast using this page from Behind the Voice Actors. With so much talent on board and pretty good direction, you can be sure that the dub of this game is pretty well done.

Now, what could have improved the story? Well, first of all, a bit more character development. Some characters are quite two dimensional. I barely notice any progress in these characters. Secondly, I feel that too many stereotypical characters were used. A more diverse cast of characters or characters that broke their stereotype would be a great twist in the story. And finally, be a bit less hand-holding. If you want to guide the players to a certain location to gain a new power-up, you can do that by other means. I loved the system the developers used in Monster Tale on the DS. In that game, you also have a guide to where you need to go, but it’s up to you to fight through the enemies and find your way there.

Metroidvania at its finest

In the previous section, I have already mentioned three games I have reviewed that were in the same style as this game. The two Castlevania games and Monster Tale.

If you have played games like Castlevania, Metroid, Monster Tale or Axiom Verge then you’ll know what to expect in this game. In this game, you explore a huge map, defeat different bosses, learn new techniques to make exploring easier and access unknown areas. Meanwhile, you have to fight through a lot of enemies and try to balance your items right in order for you to stay alive.

Most Metroidvania’s are anything but easy. This game is no exception. This game can be quite difficult. But, the difficulty is fun difficulty. Sometimes you aren’t strong enough or don’t have the right gear to survive the encounters. Now, some people would enjoy the challenge of this game and try to defeat this game with the weakest gear possible. Now, this means that this game has some minor forms of grinding to improve your stats and defeat some bosses easier.

Now, the map of this game is quite huge. Thankfully, there are several warp points that allow you to fast travel to other areas in the castle. These warp points are in special rooms marked in green on your map. A minor nitpick I have is that the warp point to the central base of the game is outside right after some enemy encounters. I think that it would be better inside so I can go with full health to the boss. Yeah, I’m that kind of a player. So, that’s why I mentioned it as a nitpick.

Anyways, the warp rooms aren’t the only special things on your journey. You also have to save rooms. This game doesn’t have an autosave feature, but you can save (and heal your HP/MP) at the various save rooms that are shattered around the castle.

I really love the freedom of exploration in this game. While the story is a minor disappointment to me, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Exploring the castle and the areas around it is a ton of fun. Trying out the different mechanics and abilities of Miriam is just a great experience to have.

Together with the decent controls, this game is a blast to play. Now, I have read in different reviews that the controls of this game have a bit of input lag or are a bit floaty. Thankfully, I find that they improved them a lot in the patches that the game received and I think that the future patches in November 2019 will improve the game even more.

Visually underpowered

Allow me to address the elephant in the room. Look, there it is. His name is Dumbo and he has a movie made about him. Now, let’s be a bit more serious. Visually, this game doesn’t look that great when you compare it to the other versions on PlayStation or PC. The publishers even posted a statement on the rather spotty technical performance. Now, I think that’s a great move to improve technical performance through patches. On the other hand, delaying the Switch port to work on the technical performance would have been an even better move in the first place.

While the Switch is quite powerful, compared to the other consoles on the market today… Well, it’s underpowered. So, I can understand that the Switch version has some fewer animations or visual effects. Something I think that I don’t understand is the inconsistent performance of the game and the input lag in certain areas. Now, these things will be addressed in the patched that is scheduled for November. This is a shame since this game would be an amazing title to play on Halloween night, but they will miss the mark on that completely.

With all that talk about the Switch version having a spotty performance, I do have to say… I don’t find it that bad. The issues are the worst when you play the game in undocked mode. When you play this game in docked mode, this game plays just … decent. In very rare spots, the game has a bit of frame or input lag but nothing game-breaking.

In its current state, the game still looks quite good. I think the visual presentation is great and the animations are quite good as well. Together with the amazing music and enjoyable sound effects, the audiovisual presentation still gets a pass from me. So, I’m a bit mixed on this whole thing.

The game is a blast to play and has some extremely helpful features like the ability to leave markers on your map so you can remind yourself to visit these areas later. The game even has a lot of depth with its own crafting system, various shops, various unlockable skills and builds you can make… Even when you change your outfit in the menu’s, Miriam wears the armor and outfits in the game, during gameplay, and during cutscenes.

But, the whole game is held back by the lack of polish that is now coming in the form of patches. It gives the game a wrong first impression to a lot of players. Not everybody knows that this game’s performance and visuals are going to improve. Also, I have stopped playing this game because I want to replay this game when all the patches have been released so I can experience this game in it’s the best form. And that’s what’s so disappointing to me. I’m already halfway the game and now I have to restart the whole game. Well, then again, it’s my own choice…

So yeah, this article is going to be continued. I think it would be a bit unfair to fully judge the game right now when I know that there are patches to improve the visuals, the controls and the gameplay in the near future. But, I still wanted to talk about this game so here we are. So, for a full review, you will have to come back a few weeks after the patches have been released. If I don’t forget, I’ll also link the updated article here: [TO BE ANNOUNCED.] And maybe I should go more in-depth about the gameplay in that updated article as well.

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

Review: A Hat In Time (PC – Steam) ~ Time Pieces Everywhere

Ahatintime.jpgOfficial website

I could start this introduction to this game with talking about how this game took a long time to develop, how this game started on Kickstarter. Yet, that wouldn’t be needed, since that’s a well-known fact about this game. While I have beaten the game, I haven’t 100% it. I’m pretty close, but that doesn’t stop me from writing a review of this game. I played this game on PC, using a wireless XBOX360 controller. So, I hope you are ready to dive into this game since I’m ready to review it. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

“Mafia is here to collect”

a hat in time.jpg

In this game, you play as Hat Kid. She is flying home in her spaceship. When she gets into trouble with a mafia dude messing with her spaceship, Hat Kid’s timepieces drop down to the planet below. It’s your goal to find them and collect them all so you can get back home.

The main story of this game is really light-hearted, but it does the job pretty well. The writing of the characters is just amazing. All the characters you encounter on your journey are pretty memorable.

In addition to that, the voice acting is just perfect. Sometimes I really felt that these characters were real. The voice actors may pat themselves on the back for this. I really enjoyed that part of the game.

The story made me laugh several times and made me smile over and over again. The charm and attention to detail in this game is just astounding. In one outdoor level, rain is falling. And Hat Kit is wearing a raincoat in that level.

While the final boss shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who played the first few levels of the first world, the way how the ending is handled and the motivations of the characters wraps up the game nicely. There was even a moment I had to pause the game and put my controller down. The game had hit a personal chord with me. I’m not going to explain why and how to avoid spoiling the end but it’s just great.

Something I really like about this game is how no cutscene drags on for too long. You are right into the gameplay after a few minutes. This is a feeling a lot of other reviewers share with me.

Pretty worlds

A Hat in Time2I could continue to talk for quite a while about the writing, but a review of a game should talk about more than just that. The writing brings so much charm to the game just like the visual presentation. The game just is eye-candy.

The atmosphere that’s created with the visuals is just amazing to look at. I had several moments where I was in awe just finding little secrets in Mafia Town. The world feels alive. Just like the writing, the visual presentation adds so much charm and personality to the game.

Something I only noticed when I watched Nitrorad’s video about A Hat in Time was the different idle animations Hat Kid has. She is so cute and adorable. If I could, I would love to have her in my friend circle without a doubt.

So, the visual presentation, animation, and writing all help build an amazing world. While there are only 4-6 worlds in the game currently, depending if you count the final boss level and the hub or not. This might seem that the game is rather short, and it is.

The game can be beaten in one day if you know what you are doing. Yet, there are rumors floating around that there is more content coming in the future. I also heard that this content is going to be free. Yes, two new free worlds! I can’t wait to play them. If you can’t wait, there is a Steam Workshop and mod support in this game. So, you can play a lot of player created content to ease the wait.

I’m playing this game casually and taking my time with it. I’m taking everything in and think I can complete the game in 20 hours. But, I don’t want the game to be over. I just want to continue to run around in the unique worlds and explore each level as much as I can.

The theming of each world is just amazing. While a lot of people say that their favorite world is the 2nd world, the Bird Studio world, I have to disagree. In that world, there is too much focus on stealth. A game mechanic I don’t really enjoy. I really loved the 3rd world. The more creepy world. Something just clicked more with me in that world.

I can’t put my finger on just why, but maybe the music has to do with it. The soundtrack and sound design of this game are just wonderful. I even bought the soundtrack and I put it on my phone in my day-to-day playlist. It’s that good.

This game is mostly an adventure/platformer game in the style of Super Mario 64/Mario Sunshine. For those games, you need great control or otherwise, you won’t be able to fully enjoy this game. For no special reason, I started playing this game with a controller and to be honest, it clicked. While I think you would enjoy this game with mouse & keyboard, I think that playing with a controller is the way to go for this game.

The attention to detail in the game continues with the controller actually. I have seen so many games where when you boot it with a controller, keyboard input is disabled. This isn’t the case in this game. Also, when you boot the game with a controller and press a key on your keyboard, the on-screen button prompts change to the keyboard layout and give a quick pop-up at the side: “new input found: keyboard”. That’s a great feature.

The control is really great for this game. The only thing I had to get used to is the wall jump mechanic. Hat Kid can climb a little bit up instead of sliding down. But, in order for this to happen, you have to press the button to move forward. The times I pressed the jump button and fall to my doom… Well, it happened more often then I dare to admit.

While I had an issue here and there with Hat Kid not being able to jump when she is under a ceiling, the patch that arrived earlier this week fixed a lot of those instances. Whenever you report a problem, the community is really helpful to try and solve it. Also, the developer actively reads the Steam Forums and tries to create a patch as soon as they can. I wish more developers did this.

The UI of this game is just excellent. I really enjoy how simple and to the point the UI is. I have nothing more to say about that.

What is this game exactly?

HatinTime3

So, I have been praising this game to the heavens and I haven’t talked about what you have to do this in this game. Well, let me fix that.

If you know how Super Mario 64 works, you know how A Hat In Time plays, somewhat. You have 4 different worlds that feature different levels each. In each level, you have a certain goal to achieve and your reward for completion is a timepiece. In some levels, you can also find a time rift. These bring you to special raw platforming stages that reward you in the end with a timepiece. You will have to find these time rifts since you only get a photo of the area where it is, so you will to explore the world to find the timepiece.

A minor complaint I want to bring up is that when you find a time rift and find the timepiece, you go back to the hub. The issue here is that you aren’t able to return to the world you were in, where you found the timepiece. And one time, I nearly finished a level and I hit a time rift by accident. For those curious, it was the lava level in Mafia Town.

Apart from each world having a unique theme, they also have unique gameplay styles. For example, in the 2nd world, there is more focus on stealth. While in the 3rd world, you have to do chores for the demon of the forest.

I really like the diversity the game brings to the table. Each world and level puts your skills to the test and challenges you with great challenges. You will have to use all your hat abilities multiple times. I felt that nothing went underused in this game.

I really enjoyed collecting the yarn balls to craft new hats. I really enjoyed collecting the green gems to buy new badges to further expand Hat Kit her skill set. You even have a badge that makes the game even harder, one that gives you one health point for example. You can quickly change between hats. Also, time slows down when you switch between hats.

Speaking of challenge, the part that gave me the most challenge were the bosses of this game. They are all unique and have different attack patterns. Something I recommend that you do when you are stuck with a boss is trying to figure out their patterns as soon as you can.

This game isn’t too challenging. The penalty for dying is starting the stage over from the last checkpoint. And the game is very forgiving with health pickups littered all over the stages.

All in all, there is a lot to experience in A Hat In Time. The gameplay offers quite a lot and I can’t wait to see what the end worlds will offer. I think it would be cool if we have an Egyptian or Greek themed world. But, we will have to wait and see until more information is released.

Another big positive of this game is that the game only costs 28€ here in Europe. Believe me, I find this really cheap for the content you get.

Now, is this game perfect? So far, I have sung a lot of praises about this game and I haven’t mentioned anything negative about this game apart from the game’s short length and the nitpick about time rifts.

One flaw this game has is that the camera can be really annoying to control. Something a lot of other reviewers mentioned as well. I do have to agree with them, the camera can be annoying sometimes. But, it works amazingly more often than not.

Another flaw is how underdeveloped the time rift tokens are. You find them in hard to reach or hidden places. You can use three of them to spin a roulette wheel for new visual costumes/colors/remixes of songs. Now, when you exit out of the roulette wheel without picking a price, you lose your rift tokens. Besides that, when you want to unlock everything, you can’t. Since there are more things you can unlock than there are rift tokens.

I also don’t like how the game completion percentage only tracks the number of timepieces you have. It would be cooler if it also counted if you have unlocked all the hats and things like that.

The only minor issue I have with the UI is the fact that sometimes it didn’t display when I reached a checkpoint in the game. It didn’t happen once or twice, and it’s a real bummer.

One of the biggest things that annoyed me in my playthroughs is the hat changing. Now, this is a minor flaw and a nitpick; but it’s something I would love to see changed. Sometimes, when I quickly changed a hat while I was using the controller, the game didn’t register it. I have to wait a little bit longer before the hat is changed. Now, this issue isn’t present when you play with a mouse and keyboard since you see a visual line going to the hat when it’s selected. This isn’t present when you are playing with a controller.

Here is another nitpick. When you alt+tab out of the game, the music is still playing.

The biggest issue is the occasional glitch in this game. There are a few things that bug out, like Hat Kid getting stuck on walls while she uses her grappling hook but these things are easy to recover from. Also, with the frequent updates, a lot of these bugs are fixed as long as you report them.

But, I think you see my point here. The issues with the game aren’t game breaking or made me enjoy the game less. I do admit that the game isn’t flawless, but the flaws that are present are more minor problems.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. There are a few features and things I left out this review about this game. It’s time to give my final thoughts on this game in the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-There are some occasional moments where the game glitches out.

-Switching hats with a controller don’t always work when you do it quickly.

-The camera can cause some issues here and there.

-The game is way too short in its current condition.

The good:

+ Amazing visuals.

+ Fun and lighthearted story.

+ Great level design.

+ Amazing variety.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Apart from Super Mario 64, I haven’t played a lot of games in this style. When Yooka Laylee released earlier this year to mediocre reviews, I didn’t have a high expectation for this game.

After a few minutes of playing this game, I was hooked. The charm and atmosphere of this game are just so addictive. I really enjoyed my time with this game. A Hat In Time has grown on me. I wish I did back the Kickstarter for this game back in 2013.

This game is so much fun to play and I can’t wait to fully complete this game. After I have beaten the game, one thing is for sure, I’m going to try out the community created mods and wait for the new worlds to arrive.

This game is one of the best games I have played in 2017. The amount of effort this small time put into this game is just mind-blowing. This game has no major flaws and it comes highly recommended from me.

While some people would say that this game does nothing innovative, I think you shouldn’t hold it against this game. It’s clear that this game is highly inspired by other titles but it’s a great homage and it does everything in such an amazing execution.

The game has flaws, yes. But, the flaws didn’t stop me from enjoying the game an awful lot.

Thank you Gears For Breakfast for delivering such an amazing game and I can’t wait to see where you take this game. I also hope you guys are also thinking about either more worlds or a sequel since I’m hungry for more Hat in Time! You have put a smile on my face from beginning to end.

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

Score: 100/100