Tag Archives: switch

Game Quicky: Island Maze (Switch) ~ Each Island Is A Maze

SQ_NSwitchDS_IslandMaze.jpgOfficial Nintendo micrositeDrageus microsite

From time to time, I enjoy trying out cheap games. Especially when I have some budget leftover and I see a game that looks interesting. That’s why I agreed to write a small review article on Island Maze for the Nintendo Switch. It’s a game Drageus Games developed themselves instead of porting the game over. So, let’s take a look at this game with the review copy that the developers provided. Now, in this review, you will find my 100% honest opinion on the game but feel free to leave your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

Positives

islandmaze1

This game is quite easy to grasp and has an enjoyable concept. The idea is that you get to the goal in the least amount of moves possible. The catch is that you can’t move over a colored tile without the correct gem. So, you have to think about how your dice is going to move over the field before moving.

Now, the game might seem to limit in the controls department, but you have a lot of helpful tools at your disposal. You can rotate the camera, zoom in and out and even undo moves. You can also reserve the camera’s direction when it doesn’t feel right to you to control.

This game allows you to skip levels. Whenever you are stuck on a certain level, you don’t need to play that level. When you complete 10 levels with the least amount of moves, you unlock every level.

The music is quite relaxing. It fits the atmosphere of the game amazingly well. Together with the amazing visuals, the game looks and sounds amazing. Maybe a bit more sound effects would be nice but then again, I think I would get sick of the dice rolling sound effect extremely quickly. Maybe one or two sound effects in the menus would be nice.

Negatives

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There are a few glaring issues in this game that I want to address.

The first issue is that the undo button only works for one move. So, if you noticed a mistake that you made ten moves ago, you better restart.

Secondly, there is no hint system. So, when you are stuck on a level, there is no way for you to know more. So, if you don’t understand a new mechanic right away… You will have to experiment.

For some reason, the “-” button brings up the controller connect menu of the Nintendo Switch. This serves no purpose in the game at all.

The naming of this game is a bad decision. If you Google: “Island Maze”, the results are mostly the island mazes from Breath of the Wild. If this game was a simple hobby project, I wouldn’t mind it too much. But, I think that in future the developers should pay a bit more attention to the naming in case they want to promote their game online more easily.

This game has been out for a year on Steam. Compared to the Steam version, which is a tad bit cheaper mind you, nothing has been changed. I think that after a year, the game could use some new levels and mechanics to give the game a bit more depth.

Final Thoughts – Conclusion

is_s1This is a good game, but it’s on the wrong platform. The audience for the Nintendo Switch isn’t an audience for quick and short casual games like this game. I think that the game would be better suited for mobile platforms. I felt that touch controls would work better for this game. Honestly, the game gave me that sort of vibe.

Apart from the broken undo system, I don’t see anything wrong with the game. This game is a cheap and enjoyable puzzler that can be entertaining for a rainy afternoon or when you are waiting for the doctor or when you are traveling on the bus or something of that nature.

I’m just a bit sad to see that this game is so short while the concept has a lot of promise. I enjoyed my time with this game but I wouldn’t blame people when they get bored with this game or skip it.

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

Score: 3/5

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: NG – Spirit Hunter (Switch) ~ Let’s Play A Ghostly Game, Shall We?

Official Nintendo subsite

I have to admit that this year was an extremely crazy year in terms of games for me. So many amazing games have been released and still have to release. When I reviewed Death Mark last year, I was extremely hyped when I learned that a sequel was in development called NG. It was extremely difficult to find even a shred of information about this game since the abbreviation NG stands for various things like a name to companies. In any case, I didn’t have high hopes that this game was coming to the west. Image my surprise when I saw this game in the “Coming Soon” section of the Nintendo Switch eShop. I patiently waited until the release date and when the release date came, I bought it during my break and let it download while I was at work so I could play it right away when I came home. Now, was it worth it? Is this game as good as the previous game or should you skip this game? Let’s take a look at this game, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Let’s play a Ghostly Game, shall we?

This game is the 2nd game in the Spirit Hunter series. The first game was Death Mark. This game isn’t a sequel of that game nor is it a continuation. This game just takes the whole gameplay concept and puts it into a new story and setting.

The story of this game is quite interesting. You play as the protagonist, that you can name yourself. His mother died a few years prior to this game and now he is living alone. His aunt took him in. She is a horror novel author and she runs a bar on the side. Her daughter became quite good friends with the protagonist. One evening, the protagonist finds a black postcard at his doorstep inviting him to play a game with a Princess. He simply ignores this because he thinks that it’s a simple prank.

But, that’s a mistake he is going to regret since not too long after he encounters his first ghost. After that, a ghost kidnaps his cousin and invites him to play a game. If he doesn’t play along, the curse will kill him.

Now, if you have played Death Mark, the curse works quite similar to the Death Mark of the original game. This curse is a sort of time limit in which you have to solve the case of the spirit you have to defeat or purify. Unlike the previous game, the protagonist doesn’t have one evening to deal with the spirit, but he has a bit more time.

While I would love to tell you more about the story of this game, I don’t think that’s a great idea. Since the story is that more enjoyable the less you know in advance. The twists and turns of the story are just amazing. The writing, the jokes, the pacing, the horror… everything comes together quite nicely in this game and I’m bumped out that I have finished this game.

There are some mechanics in this game that even give some replay value to this game. Now that I have finished this game, I want to replay this game and take it in a totally different direction to see where I end up.

This game has some minor Japanese voice acting as well. This isn’t overused at all and it’s used to add some punch to certain dialogues. The voice acting itself is done quite well, the voice acting of the ghosts are personally my favorites. The creepy effects and distortion the developers added to the voice acting is just amazing.

The slider of spooks

An extremely nice feature is the different modes you can play the game in. Like Death Mark, this game contains some jump scares and spooks. They are extremely well crafted and in most cases fit the story nicely. Also, they trigger when you investigate certain sections so it’s quite possible to miss multiple spooks. Some spooks mess with the text or the screen instead of a ghost popping up.

These different modes affect the amount of jump scares and spooks that happen. When you dislike these spooks or jumps scares, you can tone them down and even turn them off completely. I played through this game with all the jump scares intact and I have to say that it added quite a lot to the atmosphere of this game.

The atmosphere is quite creepy, to begin with. The writing draws you into the game and the amazing artwork and illustrations make the world come alive. There isn’t a lot in terms of animations but the beautiful artwork more than makes up for it. For example, the artwork of some death scenes is just extremely well done.

The character portraits, the design of the spirits, the design of the environments… It’s clear that quite a lot of thought and detail has been put into it. I’m quite thankful that the developers added a button to hid the on-screen UI to take screenshots of those amazing scenes to make them even more memorable.

Something that I find a tad bit irritating was the decision to make the “L” button the skip dialogue option. I think that another button like one of the arrow keys on the D-pad would have worked better. Since I can’t count on my two hands anymore the number of times I accidentally pressed the button and skipped a bit of the text. Thankfully, there is an easy way to bring up the log and you can re-read what you skipped.

Everything goes in that log that appears on the screen. From you trying to use an item to decisions you have to make. For some reason, I wasn’t always able to bring up this log easily. In most cases when the log refused to open, I was trying to investigate something. So, quickly going out of investigation mode was the solution.

Speaking of this mode, this is the only mode that allows you to save your game. You are unable to access the save menu while in a dialogue section. Thankfully, the dialogues aren’t Corpse Party Blood Drive long, so an investigation section can be right up the corner.

One thing that I found a real shame is some minor bugs in the UI of the options menu. In one option, the text overflows its checkbox and in another option, they forgot to remove a character at the end of the description. These are minor mistakes that can easily be patched out.

Gameplay-wise, this game is quite addictive. You have to explore the different area’s to either purify or destroy the spirit haunting the place. In order to do this, you explore at night with a partner and search for different subsections of this area.

You explore parts of a town, an office building, and various other locations. You search these locations for clues and items to learn more about the spirit and try and defeat/purify them. The better you explore and investigate the area, the more information you have in the fight with the spirit. If you have played Death Mark, you will feel right at home since it looks quite similar.

I found the gameplay of this game quite addictive. I wanted to keep playing and experience the story to it’s a full conclusion. And yes, now that I have beaten the game, I’m considering playing through the whole game again and trying to take a different route to see where it leads me. I know that this game has multiple endings, but I would love to see how much endings there are.

One extremely welcome improvement over Death Mark I have to mention is that when you want to swap partners, you can do that more easily now. You don’t have to go the whole way back to the mansion, you can easily go to the start of the place you are searching and ask the person directly.

Think quick!

There are some more things to do in this game compared to Death Mark. The items you choose still decide the outcome of purification of the spirit of destruction, but there are more things that matter now. Speaking about that in more detail would spoil certain story sections.

The whole spirit fighting mechanic has been reworked. Now, you don’t have to combine items anymore to attack the spirit, but you have to use your items in the area and analyze the situation. I love these spirits fights a whole lot more compared to Death Mark. The improvements these fights bring to the table are just amazing. It brings a bit more challenge to the table.

On top of that, there are now 2 styles of quick decision-making sections. Both work extremely similar and have the same outcome when you fail. A Game Over. One of these styles is a crisis choice, as you can see in the screenshot in this section of the article. Like Death Mark, the “1000” ticks down as soon as you are able to make a selection. Unlike Death Mark, you can’t find charms to increase this time and it also resets back to 100 each and every time you encounter that section.

Now, this game is quite lengthy. To beat the game, you will need to put give or take 20 hours aside. Let’s not forget to mention the fact that this game is somewhat replayable due to the “emotional reaction system”. Now, you can react with different emotions in certain sections. I have no idea if this makes a difference to the story. But, I have tried it one and it makes the characters react quite differently.

Something that does matter is during some sections you have to make harsh decisions that affect the story to a big degree. I wish I could talk about them, but that would spoil the big parts of the story and that’s something I’m trying to avoid in this review.

Another interesting game mechanic is the “D-Man”. This strange man texts you riddles that you can solve to find cards. These cards contain throwbacks to the previous game or add to the lore of the game. These are a joy to read but contain some spoilers of the previous game. Thankfully, only about the DLC bonus case, so it isn’t THAT bad. Now, the search for these cards works in a very unique way. As soon as you get the text, you have to look around in the area you are in. As soon as you exit the area, you will be unable to search for that card again. You’ll also lose the items you obtained and needed to find the said card. So, be careful.

An easy question to ask is, how difficult is this game? Well, this game is tricky. There are some sections that took me several attempts. In most cases, it was because I overlooked one item or didn’t check my area thoroughly enough. Thankfully, the game is quite forgiving with checkpoints and when you fail a crisis choice or spirit encounter, you can easily restart the whole fight by selecting the wanted option in the “Game Over” menu.

One of the biggest mistakes in this game is the save system in my opinion. I feel that it’s a downgrade compared to the system of Death Mark. There is no autosave, there are fewer save slots and there is less information on the save/load screen compared to the previous game. This is something I wish that will be improved in the possible sequel. Yes, a sequel has been sort of announced/confirmed. You can read more information on the article that Gematsu published a month ago.

The controls of this game are quite simple. They are easy to grasp and master. The only minor thing is that in some areas the spotlight isn’t bright enough to see where the spotlight is on the background art. Thankfully, this happens in only a few places, so it isn’t THAT bad.

Something I’m a bit mixed about is that this game doesn’t have a lot of music. Most of the music is also re-used from the previous game or sounds extremely similar. The music is amazing in this game and I wish I able to buy the soundtrack somewhere. Since I want to add this soundtrack to my music library when I’m relaxing or writing other articles.

And with that said, I said everything I wanted to say about this game. I have left out a few things so they can be surprised at you when you play this game. I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article, don’t you think?

Conclusion

The bad:
-Some minor UI elements that could easily be fixed.

-The save feature could have been expanded quite a bit.
The good:

+ Amazing writing and story.

+ Great visuals.

+ The ability to disable the jump scares if you dislike them.

+ Great challenging puzzles

+ ….
Final thoughts:
This game is quite an improvement over Death Mark. Last year, Death Mark was one of my favorite games of 2018. This game is one of my favorite games of this year. This game is the perfect game to play during Halloween. I can’t recommend this game enough for fans of Death Mark, fans of horror games and fans of visual novels. I would even recommend this game to fans of adventure games.

This game is one of the best visual novels I have played in a while. And it’s up to high competition like Ai: Somnium Files. This will be quite interesting in my “Top 10 Games of 2019”. Take it from me, give this game a try. Because it’s totally worth playing and experiencing this game.

Of course, this game has some shortcomings like the bare bones save system and some minor annoyances with the controls but these are easily overlooked and don’t hinder the enjoyment of the game too much or even at all.

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

Score: 100/100

First Impressions: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) ~ Kotaro Uchikoshi Is At It Again.

Official website

ai-the-somnium-files-588803.10

One of my favorite horror series is the Zero Escape series. I have reviewed every game here on my blog. I have played through all of these games again this year since I introduced the series to my girlfriend. When I’m reviewing adventure games or visual novels, I often find myself referencing 999, Virtue’s Last Reward or Zero Time Dilemma. Now, sadly enough this trilogy of games has ended with Zero Time Dilemma. Now, last month I learned that the director and main writer of the series were finishing development on a new game. Ai: The Somnium Files. When I saw Kotaro Uchikoshi’s name in the promotion material, I got extremely hyped. I honestly pre-ordered the game right away. Now, do I regret that pre-order or was it worth it? I’m going to give you an answer to that question in the form of this first impression review of the game. And before I start, I always say: feel free to leave a comment with your opinion in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game itself.

Date and Aiba

3568502-3 - kopie

In this game, you play as special agent Date who is investigating a gruesome murder. Now, this is unlike any detective game because Date has a special ability. His left eye is quite special. In this left eye, an AI lives. This AI is called Aiba and helps Date to make phone calls, access databases, x-ray vision, zooming and so much more. On top of that, Date can explore people’s somnium, which is created by their dreams. These dreams can help in the investigation whenever you need to get information out of a witness that refuses to give testimony.

The story is quite complex and takes a lot of twists and turns. Like the previous games that Uchikoshi worked on, this game has branching paths as well. Depending on certain actions you take during the somnium exploration, the story can go in very different directions. Now, I have already seen one ending of the game and it even got me a bit emotional while playing it. The writing and pacing of this game are wonderful. While there is some dry and lame humor in this game, the actual jokes work quite well and made me and my girlfriend laugh out loud more than once.

I’m leaving quite a lot of details on the story out on purpose since this game is better experienced without a lot of knowledge of the story. Go in this game as blind as possible. Since the twists are better without knowing them in advance. Which honestly, speaks for itself don’t you think? Now, something that I quite liked is the various nods to the Zero Escape series. Certain sound effects and visual cues come from or are heavily inspired by the Zero Escape series.

Now, before I talk more about that comparison, I want to talk about the voice acting. While you can play through this game with the original Japanese cast, I’m playing through this game with the English voice actors and I have to say that the dub of this game is amazing. The cast has been cast quite well. Maybe I might be a bit biased since I’m heavily invested in the story and now I’m quite used to the voice work of the voice actors.

He is at it again

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The gameplay in this visual novel is quite varied. This isn’t a visual novel where just choosing between a few options makes the difference. In this visual novel, there are various puzzles to solve and dialogue trees to explore. The first gameplay type is simply one where you explore a location. This can be a crime scene or the house of a suspect. In these scenes, the Date doesn’t move around. You explore your surroundings to find various clues and leads. To make sure you didn’t miss anything, whenever the text turns green whenever you move over the cursor over something, that means that there is still some interaction to be done. If the text turns gray, you have done every possible interaction.

So you go through various dialogue trees where you get new information. Whenever you missed something, you can quickly bring up the log and replay the voice clips. Something that I found a bit missing, is a sort of summary of the events that happened. Since very different things happen in the story depending on the path you take. So, a quick summary of past events might be helpful. Especially since there are character bios and a word list where various terms are explained.

Speaking of these character bios and terms, these are handled amazingly. The various hidden jokes and references add so much to the atmosphere of the game. Especially the way how some explanations are written, it’s almost like writers are talking to the player directly. Sometimes even saying that if you want more information that you “have to look it up on the internet.” And as an IT guy, I found the binary joke in one of the character profiles an extremely nice touch.

Now, the exploration in this game is quite limited and somewhat linear. While you can choose which location you visit first, it doesn’t make a difference in the story if you go in order or out of order. So, this is quite linear. Now, the dream sequences are something completely different. Now, if you played any game in the Zero Escape series, you will quickly get used to these sections. These dream puzzles are the escape rooms of this game, but the big difference is that you can move in the whole area.

If you compare the gameplay of this game with any game in the Zero Escape series, I have to compliment this game for improving the dialogue sections of the game. The dialogue and story sections are more involved now and you can choose in which order you experience it. This makes the game more accessible and doesn’t dump a lot of text and story on you all at once.

That said, now the dream sequences and puzzles are a blast to play through. Some of them are a tad bit too easily to my liking, but the later puzzles more than makeup for it. For one puzzle, I even considered using a walkthrough but after a lot of trial and error, I figured it out and it gave me such an amazing feeling.

In each puzzle, you have to unlock various mental locks. You can do this by exploring and interacting with the dream. Because you are exploring a dream, extremely strange things can happen. So, you have to make sure you understand why and what is going wrong. There is a catch, you have 6 minutes to solve the whole puzzle. If you don’t, you get a game over. You can use 3 tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. If you go back one checkpoint, you use one token. If you go back two checkpoints, you use 2 tokens.

Now, you have to plan your actions right since each action uses a certain amount of time. With some actions, you earn special bonuses that can increase or decrease the used time in the game. It’s very important that you plan ahead and that you are sure of the option you pick. Now, whenever you are standing still, your clock ticks down slower than when you are moving. Take this time to plan out your moves and make sure you aren’t losing time by walking in the wrong direction.

This whole mechanic gives the game a very tense atmosphere. Am I going to have enough time to crack the other mental locks or have I lost too much time in the previous sections? Sometimes it’s better to restart the whole puzzle instead of using your tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. Now, you can also use these tokens during gameplay. The time you had on the clock is the time you have when you return to that checkpoint. You get 3 tokens for each puzzle and they reset whenever you restart the whole puzzle.

I was pretty interested in the game whenever I saw the teaser trailer, but the gameplay is not disappointing me at all. It’s one of the best games I have played this year. And to be honest, if the quality of the game keeps up during the rest of the game, I think there are big chances that this game might be my Game Of The Year. And yes, maybe my bias towards the author and director of this game might have some to do with it, but you still have to deliver a great product and gameplay and story-wise, I think they more than succeed here.

Pretty and funny

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Visually, this game looks amazing. The detail in the character models and the environment are just amazing. Compared to Zero Time Dilemma, the animation work got a huge overhaul. The character portraits are no longer static, they have the same animation as the actual characters on screen. That way you can still see their animations whenever you missed their animations because you were looking around.

The little details in the animations are mindblowing. For example, there was a scene where a teacher was talking about a student and when she was talking about the student, her head actually moved towards the student itself and the student broke her idle animation and looked at her teacher. These things might be small moments but are moments that give just that bit of extra flavor and atmosphere to the game.

On top of that, the audiovisual presentation of this game is equally as good as the animation. Some parts of the soundtrack reminded me of a lot of the music that’s used in the Zero Escape series. Now, there are some sound effects that are exactly the same from the Zero Escape series like the save sound and some other sound effects. If it’s intentional, I found it a great easter egg for people who played the previous games. Now, it’s also quite possible that they used the same sound library to save some development money and even if that’s the case, I wouldn’t mind at all.

Surprisingly, the composer of this game also wrote the music for BloodStained and the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games on (3)DS. The Zero Escape series’ soundtracks were composed by Shinji Hosoe who wrote music for Fate/Extra and Tekken 6. The composer of this game is Keisuke Ito and he did an amazing job with his team to create this soundtrack.

One of the biggest shames of this game is the fact that sometimes those games have some stuttering or some major slowdowns during gameplay. Thankfully these don’t have that often and it only affects the Visuals and not music nor the voice acting. Most of these slowdowns happen during dialogues or when a lot of animation is playing. On these moments, the fan of my Switch didn’t blast me away like in Dragon Quest Builders 2.

If I’m allowed to nitpick just a minor bit, I can’t remember exactly where but there are just 1 or 2 lines that aren’t voice acted. These are very short lines and if you are just following the story, you might not even notice them. I clearly remember that one of these lines was said by Date somewhere in the first few sections of the story. I think it was in a conversation between Boss, Aiba, and Date. But given the whole script of this game, just one or two missed lines is something that isn’t THAT bad and can be easily looked over.

This game has only one difficulty level. The overall difficulty of this game is quite well done, the difficulty scaling is very well done. Some puzzles require some trial and error but once it clicks, the whole thing makes sense. The biggest challenge is in the exploration of the dreams since you need to think fast and think about the time limit.

The controls of this game are almost perfect. The only thing that’s missing is touchscreen controls. But hey, that’s huge nitpick since the controls are quite responsive and easily mastered. Thanks to the amazing UI, I can find any negatives about the controls and UI. Apart from maybe one minor thing. I find the text in the word list and character bios a little bit too small to read when I’m playing in docked mode and when I’m sitting a bit too far away from the screen. All the other text can be read just fine, apart from that part.

I’m also forgetting to talk about something quite important and that’s the save system. While there is an autosave system present in the game, you also have three save slots you can use. Thanks to these three save slots, I’m able to continue to play the game by myself but also save at the point me and my girlfriend left off so we can pick up the game right where we left off when we play it the next time.

Now there is some minor replay value when you want to unlock everything. During each Somnium, there is an eye hidden that when collected and finished the Somnium without failing; you unlock additional concept art. These are quite fun to watch and a great reward for people who explore the game to the smallest detail.

Now, this review is already getting extremely long for a first impression. It’s quite clear what I’m thinking of this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this first impression up. This game comes highly recommend to everybody who enjoys adventure games, puzzle games, mystery games, visual novel games and games like the Zero Escape series. This game is one of the best games I have played in 2019 and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. Apart from some minor flaws like the slowdowns, this game is in my eyes as good as perfect. It’s such a shame that this game doesn’t get the publicity that it deserves. I hope that with this article more people give this game a try and give it the audience it deserves. With that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

One minor side note, this game is also on PS4 and PC.

First Impressions: Ion Fury (PC) ~ Is it “Hail to the Queen” now?

Ion_Fury_logo

Official websiteSteam Store page

Once upon a time, there was a game engine. It was called “Build Engine”. With that engine, a lot of masterpieces like Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Shadow Warrior were created. Around 1999 – 2000, no new games came out that were made in the engine and the engine was sad. The King Duke Nukem had moved on to other projects. Well, sort of. It took FOREVER for his next game to come out. But, this year, something happened. A prince kissed the sleeping engine awake and it transformed into a new game. Wait, this isn’t working at all. Writing this introduction as a history lesson and a fairy tale isn’t working at all. Maybe we need a breath of fresh air. One was a Queen shows the ropes of the game instead of the king. So, shall we look if Ion Fury is successful in that quest or if it crashes and burns? This article is being written after I played the pre-release version until v1.02a. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the comment section down below.

Editorial note

Before I talk about the game, I want to acknowledge that I know about the controversy of this game. That the developers possibly made some transphobic remarks and there are some homophobic jokes. Personally, I don’t want to spend too much time on this controversy since a lot has been said and written about it.

My personal stance on the whole matter is simple. I’m under the impression that some things were taken out of context or provided with the wrong context and cancel culture did the rest. Also, let me be clear on one thing. I think that you should decide for yourself. Take a step back and take a look at both sides of the story before you make a decision and come to a conclusion.

About the homophobic jokes, one of them is a word pun that fits perfectly in a 90’s throwback game. The other homophobic joke is something that you have to go out of your way to discover. Where you have to enable a cheat and go out of bounds to a developer room where slang is displayed. So yeah, is this something you should take offense over or not…? That’s up to you to decide.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about the controversy. I’m here to review and talk about games. I’m not here to write long articles about drama or controversies. My mental energy is best to spend elsewhere, like on all the positive things in the world.

Bombshell, the next queen?

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In Ion Fury, you play as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison who earned her codename defusing bombs for the Global Defense Force. Then everything changed when the firing squad attacked. The firing squad of evil cybernetic cult robots made by the equally evil transhumanist mastermind Dr. Jadus Heskel. Now, Shelly has to clean up the streets of Neo DC that she knows so well.

The story brings up in several locations and areas. While this game sort of works with different levels, the world is still interconnected. It feels like you are playing on one huge map instead. Speaking of the levels, each level is quite huge. Currently, the main story takes around 15 hours to complete. Now, this is the perfect length for a shooting game. But, that doesn’t mean that you are done after those 15 hours. You can still find a lot of secrets and easter eggs in the game. And on top of that, the Steam version will have Steam Workshop support which opens the floodgates for custom weapons and even custom levels.

While you play the game, the story takes a backseat. The story doesn’t take a lot of twists and turns or isn’t anything to write home about. Yet, the personality of Shelly is amazingly done. Her one-liners and personality is almost a carbon copy of Duke Nukem in female form. It’s great.

I love the voice work done in this game. The voice works for Shelly is done by Valerie Arem, who also did voice work in Final Fantasy 15, Zero Time Dilemma, Sailor Moon and many other series. She nailed it in this game. On top of that, Jon St. John, the original voice of Duke Nukem voiced the antagonist. It’s almost like the game is poking fun at the similarities between Shelly and Duke.

The charm of the voice acting and the one-liners is amazing. It was one of the reasons why I got so drawn into the atmosphere of this game. Even the enemy grunts are well done. So, this brings me to the sound design of the game. I have no complaints about the sound design at all. Everything sounds amazing and there aren’t any sound effects I would change or tweak. The sound mixing is great as well, I never had trouble with it.

Old game design

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Let’s talk about something you might have noticed already. While this game released this year, it looks and feels like it was released in the late ’90s. For some people, this might be a turn-off, but to me, it’s a breath of fresh air.

The game has this amazing retro vibe to it and makes me quite nostalgic about the times when I first played games like Doom or Heretic. Yet, the game manages to still look amazing. Every area is quite detailed and decorated. The color pallet is extremely varied and this makes the game easy to navigate while giving ample opportunity to hide secrets in various spots.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. Like the old school shooters of yesteryear, you have to explore the level to find keycards to open doors in order for you to progress. When you reach the end of the level, you get promoted with a message: “are you sure you want to leave this area? You haven’t found X amount of secrets.” This is an amazing feature and made me go back several times to look if I haven’t missed any cracks or holes that might hide a secret.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. While you are exploring the map, you have to shoot through various waves of enemies. Some of these fly and another move around. Currently, the AI of this game isn’t that smart but that doesn’t make them easy. The game provided me with a lot of challenges in the medium difficulty setting.

I had to redo some sections over and over again because there was just an overload of enemies. At first, I was annoyed by this. While the weapons are easy and fun to use, I found it annoying that I didn’t see how many bullets I had before I had to reload. But, after a while, I got used to the flow of the game and I was defeating these hoards of enemies. When you prepare yourself and really pay attention, the game isn’t that difficult. But, yeah, you will need to do some old school trail and error.

Something that I really liked is the fact that this game has an autosave and a manual save system. So, whenever you are faced with a difficult section, you can save in advance and have a point to return to when you need to retry. The save menu provides all the information you might need and is a perfect example of a UI done well.

I like the way you die!

Earlier in this article, I talked about the visual presentation of this game. Now, the animations of this game are amazing. Some of them are a little bit gory, but they are over the top gory. Bodies can explode when you hit them with a rocket launcher, and the added sound effects are amazing. The fact that some parts of the world are destructible is great fun too. You can blow up some walls.

Now, speaking about blowing up walls… Something I found a tad bit annoying was how bombs were handled. You can throw them with the left mouse button, but you only light and throw them with the right mouse button. The reason I found the annoying is simple, in the heat of a battle I keep clicking my left mouse button to shoot and use my scroll wheel to quickly and easily select the weapon I need for the situation. But, because I’m so drawn into the game, I keep clicking the left mouse button and waiting for an explosion that never comes.

This is the only issue I have with the controls of the game. All other controls work flawlessly. Now, sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to jump into gaps while crouched, but I quickly got used to that. These controls are quite helpful to explore the expansive levels to find the keycards, items, and ammo on the map. Some levels have a straight path forward but other levels have some branching paths with rewards for exploration.

It comes with the territory but there is some backtracking in the game. Once or twice I got lost in the level because I thought I picked up a keycard or found a keycard while I actually hadn’t done that. Oh well, these are things that happen in these old school 3D shooters. I think I have to pay better attention to the UI since it displays quite well which items you have.

Maybe that would help me to save up more ammo. Since sometimes I felt that I didn’t have enough ammo and other times I had

Speaking about items, this is were Ion Fury dropped the ball a bit. While the game is inspired by Duke Nukem 3D, the game doesn’t have a lot of items. In Duke Nukem 3D, you have a lot of different items to experiment with, like the Holo Duke and the Jet Pack. The two items that I found in this game are a radar and a portable med-pack. If only this mechanic would be expanded in a DLC or an update, that would be amazing. Also, I found the radar item quite useless and barely used it. But, that might be because I don’t fully understand the purpose of the item.

Everything comes together in a well-designed game with expansive maps and fun challenges to blast through. Together with a great soundtrack, this game can be a rush from start to end. Now, the soundtrack of this game is more electronica/dance than either rock/metal/orchestral focused soundtracks of the other games in the engine. I can totally understand why some players didn’t really enjoy the soundtrack, but that’s not the case for me.

While this game isn’t that long compared to other games I have played recently, I love to replay this game several times. Due to the updates changing the map layout since the pre-release, I love to find the added details since the updates or play through the game with the new mechanics and all the fixed bugs. And, as soon as I know the maps better, I might even play through the game on a higher difficulty setting.

Apart from the main game, there are also some additional gameplay modes. One of these is an endless mode where you have to survive wave after wave of enemies. This is quite fun since the better you do, the better drops you get to defend yourself. This is a fun distraction from the main game. The other modes are something that you will have to discover when you play the game for yourself. And let’s not forget to mention that in a future patch, we will have multiplayer!

In conclusion, this game is a well-crafted throwback 3D shooter. Apart from some minor issues, I don’t have anything negative to say about this game. If you enjoy playing shooters or retro games, you should do yourself a favor and check this game out. Feel free to support the developers by leaving feedback on their forums. Personally, I think this game is that good, I might even buy the big box collectors edition for my collection.

And with that said, I think I’m going to close off this article. I might talk a bit more in-depth about certain things or mechanics if I ever write a review but for now, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Game Quicky: Forager (Switch) ~ Collecting the Mining

Forager

Official website

A few days ago, I wrote an article about a few of my favorite pieces of music in games. In that article, I talked about Forager. A game that recently got ported to the Nintendo Switch. Because the game looked quite interesting to me, I decided to give it a try and now that I have almost finished the game, I decided that it’s high time that I write an article about it. So, in this game quicky, you will find my opinions on the game and feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game itself. A little side note, this review is written when the original version came out on Switch, it’s possible that things from this review can become irrelevant when new content comes out.

Positives

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In this game, you play as a sort of nameless somebody that’s stranded on an island. Your goal is to expand the islands and survive. Now, there are a lot of game mechanics and there is a lot of crafting that will need to be done. The pacing of the game is something special. Depending on your playstyle and what you unlock, the game can go quickly or slowly.

The gameplay is quite unique. You start off on one lonely island. I was unsure at first what I needed to do. I was able to mine away from the resources on the island and after a while they randomly respawned. So, where a flower spawned first, a tree was now standing. I always got small bits of experience. When I leveled up, I was able to unlock new skills and buildings. These skills and buildings allowed to me gather even more types of resources and sometimes even more efficiently.

It didn’t take long before I had a ton of farms and factories setup that helped me in automating certain parts of the crafting process. Now, it would be lovely if they expanded a bit more on this process in future updates, like for example, a certain furnace always smelting a certain ore when it got below a certain point.

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Besides crafting and grinding for resources, you also have enemies to worry about. Depending on the strength of your weapons and gear, these enemies can range from major treats or pushovers. I found it extremely enjoyable to improve my gear and then to take revenge on some annoying enemies by defeating them in one swipe of my sword.

On top of that, there are various dungeons, quests, and secrets to find throughout the game. Almost every island has something to do or to discover it. Some islands have even more than one thing. So, it’s a great idea to try out different things. If you watch closely to each island and try out things, you might discover some secret treasures and upgrades.

I found the visual presentation of this game quite nicely. The pixel art of this game is excellent and fits the style of this game quite well. The animations aren’t too special or flashy, but that isn’t too big of a deal. The goofy writing and humor of the characters more than make up for it. Speaking about that, the characters in this game can be quite amusing and entertaining.

Now, if you talk about the presentation you can’t forget about the music and sound effects. These are excellent as well. The soundtrack of this game is a joy to listen too. I’m even considering adding the soundtrack to my playlist for when I’m writing or just relaxing. The soundtrack is in general quite relaxing but can be quite tense when it needs to be.

The controls of this game are quite responsive and easy to get the hang of. It didn’t take long for me to get used to the controls and do some advanced moves. The inventory management is a bit basic, but more on that later.

So, you have to purchase land, find secrets, unlock achievements and so much more. Whenever you finish a quest line or finish an achievement, you get special costumes that give you special abilities. These special abilities can range from taking less damage or certain enemies ignoring you. And some of these costumes are great easter eggs or references to other series. One thing to know is that once you unlock the effect of a costume, it’s always active. Even when you are not wearing it, it’s active.

Negatives

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Certain building mechanics are quite underdeveloped. When I wanted to place another oil pumping station, I had an extremely difficult time removing all the wood I had placed in the ocean. Also, I was unable to remove any land tiles that were blocking the pumping station.

The vaults are quite handy and aid you in stocking up resources. The issue I have with the vaults is that you are unable to choose where which item goes when your inventory overflows. At the end of my playthrough, I had several vaults and I didn’t know which item was where. It was always a find expedition when I needed to find one item or check if there weren’t item stacks that could be combined.

In an extension of that, the inventory management is too basic. You can’t move items in your inventory, you can’t change the order of the items in the hot bar. Also, when I was catching things with bottles, the hot bar sometimes switched to the caught item and I accidentally released the fairy.

The randomness and luck-based drops nearing the end can get extremely frustrating. There are two artifacts that I still have to get to complete the museum but the random drop rates of the remaining treasures are so low that after 5 hours of trying, I was unable to get even one of those drops.

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There are some minor game-breaking bugs in the game. For example, there are some puzzles where the required items don’t always spawn. These bugs are fixed in the Steam version of the game, but I still experience them on the Nintendo Switch. The one that affected me is the bug with the mushroom puzzle on the rainbow island.

When you bought all the islands and crafted almost every upgrade, the game gets a bit boring. Not only is one of the final upgrades quite repetitive and slow to get, but there is also nothing to do after you bought all the islands. Now, this might change in the future, since additional content is being developed. Recently a new content pack has been released for the Steam version.

In most cases, the frame rate is quite stable. But, whenever you enter or exit a building or when there is a lot happening on screen… The framerate can drop drastically. For example, I noticed a lot of frame drops whenever I had some special buffs applied to me and I was digging all over the place. Speaking of the frame rate, there is one dungeon where you have to guide a beam towards certain obstacles to open the doors. How the longer the beam was, the worse the framerate got.

Conclusion

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This game is quite a lot of fun, I enjoyed myself with this game quite a lot. But, the game can be a bit rough around the edges. There are some parts of the game that are still a bit underdeveloped and could some expanding.

The tricky thing about reviewing this game is that there are a few major updates planned and I have no idea what they will change or add to the game. I don’t even know if I have to restart or if I’m able to continue on the same save file when the updates come out. While some of them already got released on Steam, I don’t know if and when they come to the Nintendo Switch.

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Yet, I still recommend this game to people who enjoy games like Terraria, Zelda or Minecraft. This game is a lot of fun and quite addictive as well. When I started playing this game, I had a very hard time putting the game down and playing other games. I’m very excited to see what the next updates will bring and which improvements it will bring to the game. Since if they polish the mechanics that I talked about in the negatives section of this game, the game can become even more enjoyable.

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

Score: 70/100

My Favorite Game Music #23 ~ Maybe with a jukebox?

music-gaming

More articles in this series

It has been quite some time since I wrote about my favorite music tracks in gaming. It has been a year since I talked about music. So, for those who don’t know how this series works, let me quickly explain it to you. My favorite music to listen to are the soundtracks of movies, games, shows… I have enjoyed. In this series, I talk about my favorite tracks or the tracks I love to listen too. Now, a rule in this series is that I’m only allowed to talk about one track per franchise per article. Otherwise, most of these articles might get filled with tracks from my favorite games. Also, I don’t include remixes in these articles; unless it’s special, then I only talk about game-related music or remixes. Now, this one is one about the original music. But, let’s stop stalling. Let’s get to talking about gaming music. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the selection and/or the music.

Forager (Switch) ~ Boss Fight

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Forager, a game that is the love child of HopFrog. When I discovered the story behind this game, I found that the developer a real inspiration.

Besides that, this game is quite an interesting one. The game is inspired by Terreria, Minecraft, The Legend of Zelda and Stardew Valley. At the moment, I’m playing the game on Nintendo Switch. I know that the Steam version is more complete, but yeah. I didn’t know that this game was a PC game at first.

I’ll talk about my opinion on this game in a future article but for now, I want to draw your attention to the existence of this game with linking you to one best track in the trance/dance/techno soundtrack of this game.

I really can’t wait to play the update that’s now in BETA on the PC. I hope it comes soon to the Switch version so I can play these new things. Since they are looking quite interesting.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Switch) ~ Gears of Fortune

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The Metroidvania games are back and how! Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is one just a joy to play. It’s also one of the next articles that I’m writing for my blog.

I know that I’m playing this game on the platform with the weakest visual performance, but honestly, I don’t really care. The game is still a blast to play.

Now, the music is addictive to listen too. It might be one of the best soundtracks I heard this year. The tunes really stick in your head and I was unable to really pick one of them for this article. So, I picked Gears of Fortune just because it’s the track I’m listening to most too during this week. There is no other reason. The soundtrack is really good and if you enjoy this track, you really should give the other tracks a listen.

The orchestral arrangements are just beautiful. The energy of the ruined town and a haunted castle are really well portrayed. You really feel like a warrior on the battlefield really to fight the enemy and try to save the world from destruction. But, can you do that before it’s too late? Well, I think I know which game I’ll be playing after this article is published.

Etrian Odyssey 5 (3DS) ~ Battle 2

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I have been playing so many good games this year. Etrian Odyssey 5 – Beyond the Myth is one of them. It’s sad to see that it’s the final Etrain Odyssey game in the franchise. But, the series had an amazing run for being such a niche game.
For those who don’t know what this game is about, it’s a hard as nails dungeon crawler where you have to draw and create your own map to boot. I have reviewed other games from the series in previous articles.

But, I seriously wish that the Switch wasn’t such a distraction to me since I really want to continue to play this game. This battle theme really gets me pumped to play some more Etrian Odyssey V. The music of this title is amazing as always, so yeah.

A Hat in Time (PC) ~ Nyakuza Metro DLC – Rush Hour

Hat In Time

Review

I haven’t played the DLC packs of A Hat in Time yet. I have played enough to unlock both sections, but I haven’t completed either of them.

Recently, I have been playing the game with my girlfriend in co-op mode and we are having so much fun. So much fun that I copied the whole soundtrack on her phone for her to enjoy. Too bad that her laptop isn’t powerful enough to run the game. Thankfully, she will be able to enjoy this game on the Nintendo Switch really soon.

Now, when I hear the amazing music in the DLC, I’m really pumped to start playing the DLC chapters. But now I’m in a bind, should I start playing them now or should I wait until me and my girlfriend get until that point? This is a tricky question. I think I should wait, so we can both experience the amazing music and new content that this game has to offer.

Pokémon Ranger – Guardian Signs (DS) ~ Rand’s House

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Most of the pieces in this article are great tracks that really get you pumped up to fight or go on a great adventure. This Pokémon track is the complete opposite. It’s more down to earth and relaxing.

Recently, I bought the three Pokémon Ranger games on my Wii U and I have been replaying them. While my favorite music to listen too is the more action-packed music like the four previous tracks, from time to time, I love tracks like these to wind down.

This track is played inside of the more important character’s house. It fits the atmosphere of the conversation really well and fits the mood perfectly. That really reminds me, I should review the two other Pokémon Ranger games shouldn’t I? I have reviewed the first game.

Closing off

And with that, I think it’s time to close off this article. I’m so glad that I wrote this article since it really helped me out. In the last update article, I talked about how I felt a bit burned out on writing and a bit idealess/inspiration less. Well, this article gave me a lot of ideas for future articles and reminded me of a lot of games that I still want to talk about.

With that said, I hope you enjoyed listing to these soundtracks and maybe found some new tracks to add to your playlist. Feel free to let me know in the comments which games also have amazing soundtracks. I would love to hear and play them.

Now, I think it’s high time for my usual closing of the article. Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe (Switch) ~ Let’s Explore For Tears

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Nintendo.com microwebsite

I remember when ChubbyPixel asked me to review Woodle Tree Deluxe on the Switch in March. I felt like there could have been done so much more with the concept of the game. Recently, the company released the sequel to the Nintendo Switch. Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe. An expanded version of Woodle Tree 2: Worlds on Steam. Now, the asked me to take a look at the sequel as well. While a review key has been provided to write this review, I’ll give my 100% honest opinion on this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Let’s explore for tears

WOODLE TREE2

The story of this game is a direct follow up to the original. In this game, you play as a son of the hero of the original game. Now, the powers of evil have taken over the Wood Lands as revenge. It’s up to you to save the Wood Lands and find the tears again.

The way the story is being told and paced is a lot better than the original. In the original, you have a small cut scene at the start and you got thrown into the hub world. Now, the whole world is the hub world and there is a central place that acts as a sort of overview place where you can buy upgrades and cosmetics.

Before you can go explore the whole map, you go through a sort of tutorial section. The tutorial is quite decent. It teaches you the basic mechanics of the game without being too punishing.

After you have saved the three first tears, you will be allowed to find all the other tears. Right on the map screen, you can see that the game is divided up in several area’s where you can find three tears each. Right there on the map screen, you can also notice that the checkpoints you activate also can be used as warp points. That’s pretty neat.

So, in each area, there are three tears and at least 80 blueberries. You can find your progress of that collection on the mini-map. There are also red berries but there is no counter for that on the map screen. The map screen is quite useful since it tells you where in the world you are and which level it is. The only thing I miss on the map screen is a sort of zoom-in feature that you can use to have a better idea of the current area you are in. Also, it would be extremely handy that you could move the cursor freely around without being restricted to only being able to choose the warp points.

You can bring up the map screen by a simple press of the (+) button. If you use the shoulder buttons, you can use the pause menu. The menu after the map screen is the options menu. Where you can adjust the camera sensitivity, the volume if you want to invert the X-axis or the Y-axis if you want or don’t want anti-aliasing and the language. The controls are listed in this menu, but you can’t change them. In the most recent update, the developers added a lot of languages!

The 3rd and final screen in the pause screen is a total overview of your adventure where you can see how much red berries, blueberries you have and how many tears you have collected.

Now, most of the story is being told through text bubbles. There is no voice acting nor are there any “voice noises” in the game. There are sound effects, but I will talk more on that later in this review. You can easily notice when somebody has something to say because there is a text box floating above their heads. Now, you don’t have to worry to approach them from the wrong side since the text box sort of follows your character while staying on top of the character that’s speaking. The only thing is that the character itself doesn’t follow you.

Wall jumps and double jumps

WOODLETREE

If you played a platformer or the original, you will be right at home playing this game. The idea is that through platforming, you find the three tears. In this game, Woodle has few new moves in their arsenal. You have a double jump and a wall jump. You can also use your leaf to float around and to catch water droplets to water dead trees. To easily find your way around in the world, you can also use a telescope. Sadly enough, there isn’t a run button insight.

It’s not that your character is moving slow, the world is a tad bit too big. It would be extremely helpful that you had a run button or some way to make traveling faster. Thankfully the warp mechanic is really fast, so once you unlocked the waypoints, it’s easy to get there fast. It also helps you out in a pinch. Just take a look at this tweet. Yes, I got stuck inside a house I wasn’t supposed to get into. Or the moment I was able to let the character do a sort of moonwalk.

Now, the reason that I called this section, wall jumps and double jumps are because I feel like there is some sort of conflict in the code. I found it a bit difficult when I wanted to use my double jump to get onto a higher ledge because I jumped away from the wall since a wall kick was used.

This caused me a few deaths. Thankfully, there is no life system in place. After a few hits, you respawn at the checkpoint you used last. Checkpoints are also used as save points. So, whenever you need to save, you can easily warp to a checkpoint and the game automatically saves your progress. Now, the game only has one save slot, so it’s impossible that two or more people have their own playthrough at the same time.

Overall, the controls are quite responsive. While I sometimes have to fight the camera, I don’t think that the controls are that bad. They could use some polish, especially in the above-mentioned wall jump mechanic. Now, the game drops the ball in two other areas.

First of all, the visual presentation is something that needs some work. Overall the game looks fine and the animations are decent. Visually the game looks amazing for being a budget title. But, there are multiple popping issues and in some area’s I even had some major frame drops when the area was loading in. And in some areas, the place suddenly totally changed like in this video/tweet.

The character is sometimes quite jittery, especially when you are floating down. You can attack during your floating down without losing height or momentum. Textures and models pop in and out. The leaf you use sometimes just turns white, like when you are floating down… The game needs polish in the performance of the visuals.

Speaking of the visual presentation, the lighting is extremely off. Now, I can understand that when the enemies come and attack you, the scene goes dark. It is the powers of evil after all. But, for example on the beach, the lighting is so strong… the yellow that’s used for sand was sometimes quite painful to look at. Besides that, I had different lighting in a similar area without any rime or reason. I also posted that in a video on Twitter.

A final thing in the visual department I think that could have been improved is the design of some enemies. At first, I wasn’t able to tell some enemies apart from NPCs. This was a problem during the tutorial since I was attacking an NPC that looked an awful lot like an enemy from the original game.

Now, a great thing about the visual department is how your health is being displayed. The size of the leaf is basically your health. How smaller it is, how closer you are to death. Unlike the first game, you can be hit multiple times in this game. This makes the game more forgiving and more fun to play.

It’s a shame really since the game is looking quite charming and fun to play. If only these issues with the visual presentation weren’t present, then the game could have been so much better. Sadly enough, this isn’t the only major issue with the game.

Spooky silence

WOODLE TREE 3

The game itself isn’t too hard. When you get used to the controls and the mechanics of the game, you are able to find your way around quite easily. Enemies can be easily avoided and sometimes just buying an upgrade can make the game a literal walk in the park.

Now, the 2nd big issue with this game is the audio design. Don’t misunderstand me, the music and sound effects of this game are all quite well done but there isn’t enough. Some things are lacking sound effects like hitting switches or elevators. But the biggest issue is the music. The music is amazing but there are a lot of areas where the music doesn’t play and you hear silence. You only hear the sound effects of the game.

It’s a shame since each area has its own unique musical theme that really fits with the atmosphere of that area. But the area’s in between stay silent. But, sometimes the music just loops wrong as well. There are these flowers you can run into to get a speed boost. Each time you hit a flower, the musical jingle restarts. This is quite annoying in my opinion. I wish it just extended playing the jingle. And let’s not forget to mention that the animation is quite inconsistent with these speed boosts. In some areas, a roll animation starts playing and in some area’s it looks like you are gliding over the ground.

Should I be so harsh on this game? The game is fun, has a lot of love and creativity in it. The game costs 12 bucks and is quite often on sale. The developers are quite responsive and if you find a bug and report it to them, they fix it in the next patch. Even when another game has come out. Still, I see the potential that this game has and I just wish that the game was more polished.

Something that I’m quite content with this game is the fact that this game shows a lot of potential for the following games of the studio. I have been working with this studio since the first Suicide Guy game. I have seen the quality of each of their titles improve and grow. And this game impressed me quite a lot. I’m quite thankful that I got a key from them to review this game since I think that this game shows a lot of potential for the future.

Now, something that I would love to see in a sequel to this game is less technical issues and more things to do besides looking for blueberries and the tears. Expand the game and the universe. Maybe have a cross over with the Suicide Guy series, besides being it as an easter egg.

So yeah, I think I’m going to continue playing this game. The charm of this game really has won me over. I can recommend this game to other players, but keep in mind that this game has some technical issues in its current state. Maybe some future patches will improve on this, who knows.

And that’s for now, everything that I have to say on this game. 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.

Game Quicky: Sweet Witches + Swaps & Traps (Switch) ~ Sweet Traps?

Today I’m going to do something special. I’m going to write a game quicky about two games. The reason for that is that I got both games from the publisher at the same time, so I’m going to review them at the same time. Earlier this year, my girlfriend reviewed another game they published called Dead Dungeon. So, let’s take a look at their latest offering on the Switch. Sweet Witches & Swaps and Traps. Disclaimer, the publisher asked me to give my 100% honest opinion on these games, so that’s what you will find in this article. If you are unfamiliar with the Game Quicky series on my blog, these articles are a quick review of the game. I also use this series to review smaller games that don’t have a lot of stories or are rather short. In any case, let’s start with one of the games. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment down in the comment section with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the games.

Sweet Witches

Nintendo UK microsite – Publisher website – Developer website

H2x1_NSwitchDS_SweetWitches_image1600w

The gameplay

You play as one of two witches and try to plant flowers in order to earn candy.

Each level plays on one screen where you need to avoid enemies to pass each soil patch once to plant a flower. When you planted a flower on each soil patch, you can continue to the next level. Some enemies can even destroy your flowers, so plan out your route carefully. That’s the basic gist of this game.

The good

NSwitchDS_SweetWitches_02When you boot up the main menu, the charm of the game is quite clear. A lot of love went into the game. The visual presentation is amazing in this game. The artwork looks a bit creepy and cute at the same time. In addition to that, the animations are quite well done.

Depending on the difficulty setting you choose, you can adjust elements of the game. In the easiest difficulty: you can adjust the number of lives, the speed of the enemies and friendly fire. Since you can choose to play this game alone or even in co-op mode. Besides that, you even have a multiplayer mode. I’ll talk about the single-player a bit later but the multiplayer looks like a lot of fun. If you are looking for an interesting multiplayer game, this is the game you should take a look at. The idea is that you play a level but try to get as many of your own flowers planted. The more the merrier. You can also change the flowers of your opponent in your own flowers by simply walking over them. In addition to that, your opponents can attack you and you also have to dodge enemies.

The UI and controls of this game are responsive and good. I would change two things. The first thing is that you can use the (+) button in the game to go to the menu to adjust settings or go to the main menu. The other thing is that it’s unclear when your game is saved and if you choose the story mode if you are going to continue or start a new game. But, besides these two things, the UI is pretty good. The controls are easy to get used to and are useful in hairy situations.

The bad

NSwitchDS_SweetWitches_01While the animations and visual presentation are quite amazing, there is so much they could have done to improve this game even more. For example, it would be extremely handy if the soil changed when you planted a flower on it. During some levels, I had trouble to see which patches I missed. Another example is that after the screen transition to the new level, you have to quickly scan the bottom of the screen to find out where you spawn. It could use a bit more fine-tuning.

Something that seriously disappointed me in this game is the sound and music department. Now, the music itself isn’t bad by any means but it totally doesn’t fit the theme of the game at all. The whole soundtrack is from Kevin Macleod, the guy who provided a lot of music that can be freely used in videos and games. But the music selection, oh boy. It’s the generic music I hear in a ton of other YouTube videos and to be honest, I have heard them a bit too much.

On top of that, there were a lot of moments where I felt that there were sound effects actually missing from the game. From completing a stage to ladder climbing sounds. If there is one area where they dropped the ball, it’s in the sound and music department.

To be quite honest and frank, the single-player isn’t too much fun. It got old pretty quickly for me. There is no jump button, so avoid enemies gets quite tough. Very often I got stuck between two enemies and I was unable to escape with a ladder or stun them. Speaking of stunning enemies, you still lose a life when you walk passed a stunned enemy.

The game is also quite unforgiving. There is no way to earn additional lives and if you get hit once by an enemy, you lose a life. Thankfully, you don’t have to redo the whole stage but if you lose all your lives, you do have to redo the whole world. And because you don’t know how many levels are in each world, I got frustrated when I reached the 6th level and suddenly I lost my last life due to a stupid mistake.

This game could have benefited from a bit more variety. Let the player do something else then always planting flowers. For example, getting rid of flowers of the bullies or trying to kill all the enemies in one stage. The repetition of the game is a bit too much. Besides that, the enemies’ AI is so unpredictable you can barely plan out your next move.

I understand that the game is hard to mimic the old school Amiga, but due to that derpy AI, the game gets a bit too frustrating. But, that might just be me.

Conclusion

This game is bittersweet for me. There is a ton of potential for this game. Visually this game looks amazing. But, it’s clear that this game is somewhat rushed on the Nintendo Switch. Personally, I didn’t like the single player that much, but I’m happy that I have this game since I’m quite sure that this game will be a lot of fun at parties. Maybe I should give the co-op game mode a try with my girlfriend.

If you are interested in a cheap and challenging puzzle adventure game, this is the game for you. But do know that it lacks some polish and that there could have been so much more if this game got a better soundtrack and a bit more sound design.

I just think that the reason that I’m disappointed with this game is that I see the unused potential and only wished that they delivered that game instead of what we got. Maybe they can improve this with some patches or a sequel, but only time will tell.

Score: 5/10

Swaps and Traps

swapsandtraps

Nintendo UK microsite – Publisher website – Developer website

The gameplay

So, if you remember Dead Dungeon, you will be quite familiar with the gameplay of this game. The idea is that you get a key to open the door to the next level. But, there is a twist. When you get the key, the antagonist “The Divider” actually swaps part of the level. So, you have to figure out how to jump while getting parts of the level and pasted elsewhere. This game really challenges your spacial awareness.

The good

NSwitchDS_SwapsAndTraps_01

The unique mechanic of this game is just amazing. You really have to think about how you are going to parkour your way around to beat the level. It’s also really confusing because you would think the actual level geometry swaps places as well, but it doesn’t. The original layout of the level stays the same. But the location on the screen changes. You can press the “B” button to see a picture of the level before any swaps occur.

This game is a great game to speedrun. The developers actually knew this and added a speedrun timer. Your overall time and amount of deaths are visible on the pause screen. I only wish that this was also kept somewhere after I had beaten the level. Then again, this might over clutter the UI, so I don’t think that’s a good idea. There is also a leaderboard per level where you can compare your time with the time of other players. I honestly wonder if these are the times of the PC players are also included. But the fact that there are icons of the Nintendo Accounts next to the names, I think it’s the Nintendo Switch version only.

The audio in this game is really nice. The music and the sound effects really help sell this game. I really liked the soundtrack in this game. The voice acting in the cutscenes is really corny and it really fits the atmosphere of this game.

The controls of this game are simple and work almost perfectly. In almost every case, I felt that every death was my own fault. And due to the quick respawning, I was able to quickly give the level another shot. Since this game hooks you in with that: “Just one more level and one more try” mentality.

I adore the UI of this game. Especially on the pause screen. You have quick access to the sound and music settings and you see all the info you need. It’s quick and easy. Great job on that!

The bad

NSwitchDS_SwapsAndTraps_03

The leaderboard could be so much more. If only there was a section where you can see the time of friends, that would be amazing.

The fact they ported the achievements over from the Steam version into the Switch version is a bit pointless. I can understand that some players love to try and unlock every achievement but to me, it’s rather pointless. Since you can’t display them on your profile. If only Switch games took achievements a bit more seriously and have them display on your profile screen. But, is this a negative of the game…? Well, yes and no. Let’s not forget that I didn’t even know that I unlocked an achievement when I did since it showed a small icon in the bottom right corner with barely readable text.

This game would be even more amazing if you were able to remap the jump button and the “show picture of the level” button. More often then not, I wanted to jump and I hit the other button. But this is a minor complaint and might just be me.

Conclusion

While this game is extremely confusing and frustrating, it’s a lot of fun to play through. I really enjoyed my time with Switch and Traps and I think it’s a great puzzle platformer.

If you enjoy puzzle platforming games or really hard platformers like Electronic Super Joy or Super Meat Boy, I really think that you should give this game a try. I even had trouble finding negatives for this game. For the price, this game is totally worth your time and money.

Score: 8/10

Closing off

And with that said, I have to thank the people at Drageus Games for providing me with press copies of these games. I actually really enjoyed myself with these games and I enjoyed writing this article and reviewing two games.

I don’t know if I’ll review two games at once in the future in the Game Quicky series but who knows, maybe I might review two small games that are sequels of each other or something. I have to think about that.

Now, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I also hope that I can welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

 

First Impression: Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch) ~ Illegal Building Is Fun!

dragonquestbuilders2cover.jpg

Official website

When I played Dragon Quest Builders on the Nintendo Switch, I was highly surprised by the quality of the game. Now, granted, not everybody enjoyed the game and some Dragon Quest fans even disliked the game quite a lot. Take for example my buddy Drakulus, who gave the game a 5/10. Another friend of mine, FalconGameReviews wrote a more lukewarm review of the game. And then you have me, giving the game the full marks. While I won’t deny that the original had some flaws like the lacking combat, I heavily enjoyed my time with the game. After I had beaten the original game, I certainly wanted to play more and when I saw the trailer for the sequel, I was extremely hyped. So, now that I was able to play the game for a while, I can give you my first impressions on it. So, what did I think of the game so far? Let’s take a look. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Illegal Building Is Fun!

dragon-quest-builders-2-11The events of the original game took place in an alternative universe of the ending from the original Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes place a few years after Dragon Quest II. In the 2nd Dragon Quest game, the hero Erdirck takes on Hargon and Malroth. Their followers, the children of Hargon want revenge and make sure that nobody is allowed to create anything. But during the story, you teach the brainwashed citizens that building is still fun while trying to avoid being caught by the children of Hargon.

So, they paint builders as a sort of criminal. You start on a ship where you learn the ropes of the game and get a tutorial on the basic game mechanics. When the ship actually crashes, you wake up on an island together with a person named Malroth, that has no memories of his past.

The story so far has been quite enjoyable. The charm of an actual Dragon Quest game is still here. The humor and great writing are still here. Also, in this game, the story is a bit more in-depth. It takes some various turns and it’s more expansive than the original one. Story-wise, I personally think that the story of the sequel is a lot better than the original. It plays more on the central theme of the story but it also has a lot of side stories and side quests to keep you occupied.

The only negative about the story is that the pacing is a bit slow. Personally, I don’t see this as a big deal but I think that this can be a turnoff to some people. Sadly enough there no way to skip the dialogue outright. Or there is no way to look at the previous dialogue, like if you accidentally pressed a button and skipped a part of the dialogue while you were reading.

Now, while I was enjoying the story, I noticed something that worried me a bit. While I was playing the game, either in docked or in handheld mode, the Switch’s cooling fans kick into high gear. My Switch actually got extremely hot in the middle. Also, the Switch is blowing out hot air, which was an unwelcome thing while I was playing this game during a heatwave…

Expanded

Dragon-Quest-Builders-2-Monster-Recruitment-Guide.jpg

A ton of mechanics in this game got expanded to aid you in building the town or doing your quests.

First of all, you don’t need Chimera Wings anymore to fast travel back to your base. There is a new fast travel mechanic that makes life a lot easier. It’s a huge improvement over Dragon Quest Builders 1.

The gilder feature is a godsend. I loved it in Breath of the Wild and I love it in this game. It’s an amazing feature that aids a lot with traveling and exploring the vast and open world in this game.

The Builderpedia feature is an extremely welcome feature as well, it’s a sort of mini wiki inside the game that can help you when you want to build a certain room in your base and you don’t know which items you need to have in your room in order for it to register as a certain room.

The new builder tools like the handy builder’s glove is also an extremely welcome feature. When you misplaced a block, you don’t have to mine it out anymore. You just pick it up again with the glove and place it where you want.

A big complaint about the original game was the camera. Now, the issue was that in tight spaces or in buildings with multiple floors, it was sometimes a struggle to center the camera on your character. In this game, they have a brilliant solution to that problem. With the simple press of a button, you can go into the first-person mode and more easily explore around.

Another great feature is the autosave. The game autosaves after a while of playing. Also, you don’t have to go to the village center to save it anymore. You can easily do that from the menu.

There are a ton of amazing other additions in this game that make this game even more enjoyable to play. From more easily creating rivers and lakes to changing walls into another block with the click of a button… If I would be talking about all the new mechanics and how they improve this game, I would be here all day.

Now, there are a few things that got downgraded. First of all, cooking. While it’s unique and somewhat fun that you need to cook your food on a campfire, you can’t cook in bulk anymore. Meaning that you are unable to easily get all of your food cooked.

While that is negative, the new cooking system allows for more experimentation. Since in some cooking stations you are able to throw ingredients together to make something unique like in Breath of the Wild.

Something I also missed from the original game was the fact you could keep blueprints in your inventory after building a certain room. It would be so handy if I was able to just reuse a blueprint somewhere else. For example, when I wanted to rebuild a certain bar from the main story on the Isle of Awakening, I had to either take screenshots or reference the Builderpedia several times.

Complaining out of love

Dragon-Quest-Builders-2-Boy-Malroth-Windmill.jpgIt might seem that I’m complaining a lot about this game. That’s because I’m highly enjoying my time with this game while still being a bit frustrated at several mistakes that make this game less enjoyable. Now, if I would score the game, I would still give it full marks.

One of the reasons why this game gets full marks is the visual presentation. This game looks amazing. I’m so glad that there is photo mode and a screenshot button on the Switch so I can make screenshots of the amazing landscapes and gorgeous visual presentation of this game. Together with amazing animations, this game really comes to life. I especially like little details like when you move the camera from under weather to above weather, the camera appears wet and various water droplets roll off your screen.

Like every Dragon Quest game, the music in this game is fantastic. I haven’t played a Dragon Quest game where I didn’t like music. That said, I do have to ask the Dragon Quest fanbase a question. Does the soundtrack of this game have original songs or does it also reuse classics from the previous Dragon Quest games, like the original Dragon Quest Builders? I was unable to find more information on that.

Together with amazing sound effects, the audiovisual presentation is excellent. In addition to that, the stable 60FPS framerate of this game is just a blessing. The game runs and plays extremely smooth. I can even say that I rarely had a slowdown. In some rare situations, I didn’t see the animation of a block-breaking but that happened so rarely, I don’t think it’s a huge problem.

Now, let’s talk about the controls of this game. The controls are still excellent. While I played the original with the Nintendo Switch Joycons, I did play this game with a wired Pro Controller. And I have to say it’s great fun.

Even with great controls, the combat is still quite generic. Not a lot changed when you compare it to the original. Now, when I read other reviews, I see a lot of people complain about basic combat. To be honest, personally, I don’t see this as that big of a problem. The game isn’t focused on combat with enemies, the game is more focused on building and crafting a world and your town. So yeah, the basic combat doesn’t bother me that much.

Something that did bother me and got me in a lot of trouble was the fact that I was sometimes unable to eat my healing pots during combat. I’m under the impression that there is either some delay on it during combat or some sort of cool down. Quite often I had to walk away from a battle to eat a healing pot.

Now, a feature that I love quite a bit is that after scripted battles, your citizens actually repair your city. Yes, if monsters manage to destroy your city or parts of it, it gets fully repaired to the way you actually build it. This is an amazing tweak and one that saved me a lot of headaches. Since one time I actually rage quit a boss in the original game simply because it destroyed around 75% of my town.

This might be just me, but I have the impression that this game is easier than the original. So far, I have fought several bosses in the game and quite rarely the gave me trouble.

A minor complaint that I have with this game is that there is only one save slot. Compared to Dragon Quest Builders 1, you had 5 slots per chapter. Granted, this game isn’t split up into chapters, but I really miss the 5 save slots. Since now I can’t really lend out my Switch to my girlfriend without me fearing that she saves over my save for example.

This game is an excellent sequel, it builds upon the original game quite a lot. From a central island where you bring all of your befriended villagers and build your own paradise to unlocking new blocks and various other things with the gratitude you receive. There are also monsters you can tame and ride, you can swim… You can quite easily change your look in-game and let’s not forgot to mention the multiplayer functionality that this game has.

It’s no wonder that various people who are playing this game got addicted to this title. For me, it got to the point that I even put other games aside. Games like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Fire Emblem – The Three Houses… While this game came out, I was lending my girlfriend’s PS4 since she has Uncharted, a game series I always wanted to play. And nope, I kept playing Dragon Quest Builders 2.

But to whom do I recommend this game? Well, easy. I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys open-world games like Breath of the Wild or Skyrim. I also recommend this game to people who enjoy Minecraft, Terarria or games of that nature. If you have enjoyed the original Dragon Quest Builders, this game is for you as well. The biggest issue, in my opinion, is the overheating of the Switch. The other negatives don’t affect my enjoyment with this game that much.

So, yeah. I’m in love with this game. There are high chances that this game will be in my top 10 games I played in 2019 list. To be honest, so far it’s even on my list as a contender for Game of the Year. But let’s just wait and see, the second part of 2019 has a lot of amazing titles that will come out. And also, the game will receive DLC later this year, so my opinion might change on that…

I may talk a bit more in-depth about this game if I ever write a review on this game but for now, I think it’s about time that I end off this article right here. I 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: Dead Dungeon (Switch) ~ Platforming Your Way

Page on Nintendo.com

Today is an exciting day for me, NekoJonez gave me the chance to write my first, first impressions article. So, any feedback on my writing is welcome. I also got the honor to write an article about a game I got a review copy of from the developer. The developer asked me to give my full honest opinion on the game, so that’s what you are going to read in this article. 

Storytime

The goal of the game is to exit the dungeon that you entered to recover your stolen candies. At every level, you need to collect a key (or in this game, a ghost) to be able to open the door to the next level. It’s somewhat unclear what the purpose is of the donuts are in the levels so I just didn’t collect them.

If you read the description of the game on the Nintendo eShop store page, you discover that you need to bring back the sweets and lost souls, which makes the goal of the game very clear.

Every level of the game is on one screen, you only need to jump from left to right. (And of course up and down) This doesn’t mean that game isn’t complicated though. In some of the levels, you really need to time your jumps to avoid being hit by moving spikes/traps or enemies.

Controls

The controls of the game are quite easy to figure out. You can either use the joystick of the buttons. I preferred the buttons, the joystick is a little harder not to use to much power which makes you die easier.

One thing that I missed was the option to shoot down the enemies, you really had to jump on their heads. Just like a certain plumber.

Design and animations 

Dead Dungeon is a 2D game. This means the game looks very simple. I think the fact that the game is 2D made it more enjoyable to play. The simple look made me feel like I was playing a retro game. Somehow, the character made me think of Courage, the cowardly dog, which hit me with nostalgic feelings.

Even though the game is in 2D, the game doesn’t seem to lack animations and extras to make it look more appealing.

One thing I noticed, was that the levels always had a different color which gave it a little more sense of a designed game.

Difficulty and frustrations

In this game, the goal is to jump from platform to platform and back. The game isn’t that easy and you’ll need a lot of patience. I often felt like throwing my Switch away, but a minute later I started trying again. This game has that “just one more try” mentality. I’ve often played games that made me feel annoyed at not being able to finish a level and just stop right there and then.

Every level has a different design, sometimes you just have to jump without avoiding traps, sometimes the level is full of traps. I will surely keep playing this game to try and finish it.

The difficulty of the game also isn’t really clear, sometimes the levels are easy and sometimes they are kinda difficult which makes it hard to finish.

Music and sound design

The music and sound of the game didn’t really annoy me. After a while, it started to sound a little bit monotonous.

One thing I missed was the sounds when you jumped, died,… These would give the player some more information to work with or time their jumps better.

Overall opinion

When I first opened this game, I thought: “oh well, this doesn’t look too difficult”. Let’s just say, I was very wrong. The fact that you don’t get a lot of text after each level also is a good thing, I don’t really like text-heavy games.

I didn’t really get the goal of the game at the beginning, but that didn’t really keep me from playing. You don’t really need to know the story to be able to play the game.

Jonez and I noticed that it is better to play handheld than docked. In the docked mode, some controls are delayed which makes it hard to finish a level.

People that like old-school games like ink and super meat boy will really like the vibe of this game since it gives you an older vibe and older music.

Thank you for reading my first game review, well, my first “first impression”. I hope you enjoyed reading it. If you have any feedback for me to write better articles in the future, I’m happy to hear it. Otherwise, I hope to welcome you in another article or enjoy another article of Jonez in the near future 🙂

First Impression: Woodle Tree Deluxe (Switch) ~ Raindrops To The End.

Woodly TreeNintendo microsite

In 2017, the developers behind Suicide Guy contacted me to ask if I would take a look at their game. Last year, they asked me to take a look at the sequel/follow-up of the game called Suicide Guy – Sleeping Deeply. Now, Chubby Pixel sent over a review copy of Woodle Tree Adventures Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch. While the developer provided me with a review copy for this game, you will find my 100% personal opinion in this article. I’m quite excited to see what this game has to offer and how different their other titles are. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

Raindrops To The End

Woodle Tree 1In this game, you play as a walking log. You are tasked by the Great Tree, which looks a lot like the Deku Tree from Ocarina of Time, to bring the water back to the world. Why do you have to bring the water back to the world? Because it’s going through a drought at the moment. After the Great Tree shows you the Fairy Tears you need to collect in order for you to save the world, you get teleported to the hub world. This hub world is the home that the Great Tree for you build and there you find a backpack (it’s called a rugsack in-game) and your weapon, the magical leaf.

And that’s about it in terms of story. I haven’t finished the game yet, but I think there will be a bit more story bits after I finished the last level. Now, I didn’t expect a grand story from this game. Because the stories in the Suicide Guy games were handled in the same way. It’s all about the gameplay in these games.

Before I talk about the gameplay, I want to mention one thing that I didn’t like about the story. In this game, there isn’t a button to skip dialogues. When I started playing this game and I read the first dialogue and I wasn’t able to advance, I thought that my Switch froze. But, you have a wait for a bit too long in order for the game to advance. It sounds like a nitpick, but it would improve the game quite a lot.

With that said, let’s focus our attention on the gameplay. In this game, you go through various levels looking around for these Fairy Tears. There is no tutorial in the first level, but a quick look at the controls by pressing the “+” key on the right joycon explains everything you need to know. The controls are easy to grasp and understand.

The goal in each level is to find the tree hidden Fairy Tears and bring them to the three cups at the end of the level. If you reach the end of the level without all three tears, you won’t be able to finish the level. While the levels are quite linear, to find all three tears, you will have to explore off the main path and look everywhere.

Checkpoint mystery

Woodle-Tree-Adventures-Deluxe-2Whenever you fall off the edge of the level or get hit by an enemy, you respawn at a checkpoint. Now, at first, I didn’t understand how the checkpoint system worked, but after some experimentation, I think I understand it. Let’s say there are 5 checkpoints in a level. When you die past the 4th checkpoint, you respawn at checkpoint 4. If you die again, you respawn at checkpoint 3, die again -> checkpoint 2. So, the punishment of death is respawning at an earlier checkpoint.

In this game, you don’t have hitpoints nor lives. So, if you are hit by an enemy, you are dead. But, you will never get a game over. Speaking about enemies, they die in one hit as well. Some will chase after you, others will stand in your way to make certain platforming sections trickier to complete. The enemies were a small point of frustration in this game for me, since the attack of your character is so slow, I ran into them quite often. Thankfully, you don’t lose your already collected tears whenever you die.

But, there is something that was ever more annoying, and that was the camera. You don’t have full control over the camera in this game. You can zoom in and out in most places. I’m extremely happy about that feature since it made certain platforming sections possible. In other sections, the zooming in or out mechanic didn’t work properly or not at all. Making some sections extremely tricky, especially when you have trouble seeing depth.

A cute cover

Woodle-Tree-Adventures-Deluxe-3This game is a port of the Steam game “Woodle Tree Adventures”. In this version, with getting an additional level, the new camera system and better jumping mechanics.

Speaking about the jumping mechanics, the animation of the jump looks a bit weird. It looks a bit floaty. I think that a few more frames of animation for the jump would give it a more natural feel.

Visually speaking, this game looks very good. The world is very colorful and vibrant. The visual presentation of the game is one of the strongest points of this game. The game even looks stunning in some places. Especially some lighting effects like the sun’s rays peeking through some models, giving a sunset vibe.

Yet, underneath this cute cover, the game feels unfinished. For example, the controls of this game respond quite well but they can be quite slippery sometimes. I lost count how many times I died because my character took one or two additional steps and feel into the abyss.

Also, I felt that there was something missing during my playthrough of this game. There is barely any UI in this game. I missed an on-screen counter for the collected fruits in each level. With these, you can buy various cosmetic items for your character, but it’s tricky to know how much you have already collected. You can see this in one space in the hub world, but the counter isn’t visible at the location you can buy these cosmetics at.

All of this happens in the hub world. And there is another element that I don’t like about this game. The placement of the levels. To start a level, you have to hit the orb with your magic leaf. But these orbs appear randomly in the hub world without any indication of which ones you already finished or which one is new.

Overall, this game is quite easy. The only moment that this game can become difficult is when the controls become slippery or when the camera decides you can’t zoom in or out. But, it didn’t take me long to finish the first few levels of this game.

The music and sound effects are a bit lacking as well. While the music of this game is quite enjoyable, I wish there was a bit more to the soundtrack and a bit more sound effects. I think there are only 5 sound effects in this whole game. And that is a bummer. Speaking about sound effects, I noticed that the dying sound effect sometimes played multiple times when you fall off the edge.

Overall, this is a decent game. But, it’s lacking. The game could use a lot more polish and content. The concept is interesting and fun to play but with slippery controls, boring level design and especially an annoying camera, this game is hindered so much. This game could have been so much better then what’s released right now. With that said, I have a hard time recommending this game. While it has a ton of elements that work and work well, but there are just too many elements that need polishing or updating for me to fully recommend without any hesitation.

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

Review: Atelier Rorona -The Alchemist of Arland- DX (Switch) ~ Crafting The Adventure With Alchemy.

atelier-rorona-featureWikipedia page

On my top 10 games list of 2018, I talked about Atelier Rorona. I talked about how this game got me interested in playing the Atelier series. Now, it’s time to give my full opinion on the game. Why did I place this game on my top ten list and why wasn’t it higher on the list? I think it’s time to talk about crafting and exploring. Adventuring and RPG’ing. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Get off your lazy bum

atelier rorona screen 1The story of this game has a simple premise. You play as Rorona, a young girl who is an apprentice at a local alchemy shop in the Arland Kingdom. Her master Astrid is so lazy that business isn’t going well at all. As a matter of fact, she didn’t get off her lazy bum for so long, the kingdom is considering to close down the shop. Rorona doesn’t want this to happen so she takes on the challenges provided by the kingdom. She gets a deadline of three years. During these three years, she has to prove that she can run the alchemy shop and make a profit. If she fails one of these challenges, the shop will be closed without any further questions.

On the surface, the story of this game isn’t anything special. It’s one that has been done various times before. Yet, the story actually changes a lot in your actions. It depends on who you take with you on your journey, how good you craft your items, how you interact with the characters and how you run your alchemy shop. The one that lazy Astrid sort of gave to you because she wanted more sleep but didn’t want the shop to be closed.

This makes the story quite a lot of fun to play through. Because each and every playthrough is going to be different, you will have a different story. This game has various endings that all depend on how good you did during your missions provided by the kingdom. When I had beaten the game for the first time, I got a very generic ending that didn’t give the closure I felt that the story deserved. Because of that, I feel motivated to replay this game with so I can get an even better ending.

The writing of this game makes replaying this game even more enjoyable. While I was playing this game, I posted a short clip on my Twitter showing off the voice acting. The game has a lot of funny and charming moments. I actually fell in love with the characters of this game. Now, depending on how good you play this game, the characters you interact with getting more character development.

Now, during my playthrough, the story was quite enjoyable. While it didn’t have a lot of moments where I sat on the edge of my seat, it was quite relaxing. Maybe the other endings have more thrilling moments, but overall I enjoyed the story quite a lot. The writing, the pacing, and the voice acting make for an enjoyable experience. I can’t wait to see how the game plays out on my next playthrough.

With that said, how do you actually go about saving the shop? For that, Rorona needs to gather ingredients from various locations and craft various items. Depending on the quality of the items, you get better items. Now, I do have one thing I felt mixed about in terms of the gameplay.

Running that shop

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-01-ps4-us-04dec2018

Yes, this is a screenshot from the PS3 version, but the Switch version looks the same apart from the different buttons.

While the story pacing is quite good, the pacing of the game is … let’s just say, strange. Because the game gives off a relaxing and casual vibe, the game can feel extremely slow. But this is very misleading. Because you have a strict time limit; you shouldn’t waste time at all. You have to play every move extremely carefully. The more mistakes you make, the worse your ending gets. The depth in this game is crazy. You do get an assistant at the middle point of the game. This mechanic saved me various times. You can assign this assistant to go and explore for you or craft items for you.

Be warned, the tutorials of this game only scratch the surface of the mechanics of this game. Something I recommend is that you use the save system to your advantage. I had various saves at various points. So, I can go back when I felt I was able to finish the missions with better results.

Talking about the save system, the fact that this game got ported from a PlayStation system really shows in the UI. If you have played a game on a PlayStation you will recognize the typical save and load UI easily. The only thing that annoys me is that I’m unable to name my saves. This would have helped quite a lot.

So, you have to explore, fight monster and craft items. This sounds like your typical RPG fare. You do have side quests that can help you to get a better relationship with a certain character. Some of these side quests have the potential to improve the reputation of the shop which also has a big influence on the ending of the story.

All in all, the biggest challenge of this game is time management. Use your time wisely and try to waste as few days as you can. I always tried to finish the assignment of the kingdom as fast as I could. When I finished that, I used the remaining days to explore new areas and improve my relationship with the other characters.

The gameplay immersed me quite a lot. I really felt like a shop owner trying to find the best strategy to get my shop up and running and to try to get as many customers as I can. While the game isn’t too difficult to get the most basic ending, the challenge for this game hides in trying to get the best endings.

A normal playthrough of this game will take you somewhere around 20 hours. But, if you want to see all the endings, you will get a lot more out of this game. On howlongtobeat.com, there are reports of players taking 60 to 100 hours to fully complete this game. Now, this is for the PlayStation 3 version. At the time of writing this review, the website has no listing for the Nintendo Switch version.

Now, the meat of this game is in exploration and crafting. First of all, let’s go a bit more in-depth about the exploration. During your exploration, you can take two allies with you. Certain allies require a certain price to hire. This price needs to be paid upfront. So, make sure you have enough gold in the bank to hire them.

During the exploration, you can go to various locations. Each location has several areas you can explore that provide different items. These items aren’t randomized, so if you find herbs in a certain area, you will be able to find those herbs every time there.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that you have an inventory limit. If you reach that limit, you have to throw out items. Also, you need to keep in mind that certain items can lose their freshness. For example, if you collect berries and don’t put them in your storage in the chest in the shop, the quality will drop.

During your exploration, you can see certain spots where items can be gathered. In the meantime, you see the enemies roaming around. When you interact with them, you can start a fight with them. The battles are turn-based. It’s the system you see in a million other RPG’s. But there are a few differences.

One difference is that only an alchemist can use items. So, only Rorona can use healing items during the battle. Another difference is that you can use certain characters to defend you and make combo attacks. In each battle, a meter builds up. When that meter is full, you can use the shoulder buttons to defend Rorona. A similar mechanic counts for the combo attacks.

One thing you need to keep in mind during the exploration is that moving between locations and areas takes valuable time. So, make sure you know which items you need and where you can find them and plan accordingly. Otherwise, you might get into trouble and you aren’t able to craft certain items.

In addition to that, keep in mind that you have a limited amount of MP. MP is also used to craft items. And this brings me on the second part of the gameplay I want to focus on, the crafting. This is something I didn’t always pay attention too. Each item can have certain properties that make a huge difference during crafting. Each item has also a quality level that changes the outcome quite a lot as well.

Something I found extremely tricky was looking for high-quality items. For some reason, I always found a mid tear or low tier quality items. I’m quite sure that this was one of the reasons that resulted in me having a mediocre ending. Now that I know that, I know what I should look for in a second playthrough.

Anyways, the crafting system itself is a bit basic. You can select various ingredients to craft an item. If you don’t have a certain sub ingredient that is craftable, you get forwarded to the crafting menu of that item. One thing that I found really annoying was that it wasn’t always clear which ingredients were missing. For example, the icon of the missing ingredient was a flame. But I had a few ores that looked extremely similar. Yet that wasn’t the ingredient I needed. It turns out I needed oil.

Something I really liked was that in the crafting list, you were able to sort ingredients in terms of quality or rarity. Also, you had various symbols that gave information if you were or weren’t able to craft a certain item. For example, a triangle means that you are able to craft the item but you have to craft a sub-item first.

One thing that I would like to mention is that this game can be repetitive. It’s quite easy to fall in a loop for every assignment or mission. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. And repeat. Each assignment has a different theme like preparing for a festival or helping to craft medicine.

I didn’t mind too much, but I feel that a bit more variation in the gameplay would do the game some good. For example, a bit more assignments where you needed to defeat a certain number of monsters or collect a certain amount of ingredients would do the trick.

Arland is saved

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-03-ps4-us-04dec2018Let’s talk about the visuals. This game looks quite nice in my opinion. While the game could have benefited from a free camera, I actually didn’t mind too much since the camera allowed me to watch the nice city and fun dungeons in great detail. Some enemies suffer from the recolor syndrome, like the slime enemies. There are at least 3 variants and only the color has been changed. I wish those games added a few extra details. Oh well. At least I never had slowdowns during gameplay and I was able to play the game at a decent frame rate.

In terms of animation, this game is good. While the cut scenes would have benefited from some more character animation instead of gorgeous looking 2D artwork. Now, if the game came out in a previous generation, I would excuse this…. oh, wait… that’s right, this game is a port of a PS3 game. Then again, the PS3 is capable of so much more. Oh well.

Now, something that bugged me a bit is the rather awkward jumping animation. I think it’s missing a few frames near the end where Rorona’s feet almost snap into place. It also looks strange when you adjust your jump in midair. Since Rorona sort of floats awkwardly. It’s hard to put into words but while the jump works great, it feels off and looks a bit off.

Jumping in itself is easy to do and control. You just press the jump button and voila. I don’t have any complaints about the controls. I really like how there is a dedicated button to cycle through Rorona’s animations. The game controls great and I didn’t have the need to spend time getting used to them. The UI explains it so well, I got the hang of it right away. One minor nitpick is that the prompt for running is a tad confusing. When the UI shows a button for “running ON” and you press that button, Rorona actually starts walking. So, that prompt in the UI actually shows the status if you are running or not.

Now, the UI has some amazing things I really liked. Like how easy it is to sort items or the great and easy to use crafting system. But I have a few complaints. First of all, I wish I was able to see which ingredients were at a certain location before I actually traveled there. I would have been able to save so many days…

Secondly, while I totally understand why the developers did this; I wish I was able to see how many days it would take to go to a newly discovered gathering area. The reason why they don’t tell you this is most likely for immersion reasons.

And my final and third complaint is when you buy armor, you can’t see if it would increase somebody’s stats or not. This was quite annoying, especially when the armor shop rarely has new items because the game really wants that you craft it yourself.

The music and sound effects for this game are good. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the story quite well. It’s relaxing and rather melodic. It helps to get immersed in the game. I even added the soundtrack to my playlist for when I want to relax. Now, the sound effects are great but I wish there were a bit more of them. For the whole crafting system, the use the same effects and I would love some different ones for food or bombs. Also, one for days passing, while the clock ticked over, would be the cherry on the cake.

Oh, and here is something nice, you can totally change the whole soundtrack. Yes, while interacting with the book in the atelier, you can change each and every track to another track. You can choose between a pretty long list of other games in the series. Now, this is an amazing feature but it could have used some additional features. Like a reset to default option and one where you easily see which song you have selected since in that menu there is a lot of unused screen space. And the biggest missing feature is, in my opinion, a preview of what song is currently playing. Oh dear, they were so close.

In that same menu, you can access the different costumes for Rorona. As far as I know, these are only cosmetic. You can do save file management and decorate the atelier to a certain degree. You can also access the options menu where you can adjust the sound mix to your liking. Here, you can also change the language of the voice acting to Japanese or English. So, if you want Rorona to greet you in Japanese on the main menu, you can do that.

After you have finished the game, there is a post-game chapter. I won’t spoil what the chapter is about but it adds some additional story. But after this post-game, there is no free-roaming. So, you can’t experiment with the game… This is a real missed opportunity since I would have loved to try and experiment with the game to learn and have a better run next time. Yet, on the other hand, I totally understand why they did this. Because the game has so many different endings in which different characters aren’t present, it would have been a hell to program.

Interestingly, during my writing this review and posting it; the game got a small update. I have no clue what has been added, but I wanted to mention it, just in case something in my review doesn’t make sense anymore.

With that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave some things out for you as a surprise if you decide to play this game. But, it’s time for the conclusion of this review and my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The jump animation looks awkward.
  • The game can be repetitive.
  • There is no free play in the post content.

The good:

+ Enjoyable story, writing and voice acting.

+ Amazing charm.

+ Great UI.

+ High replay value due to the different endings.

+ Relaxing soundtrack and you can change it to your liking!

+ ….

Final thoughts:

I don’t know exactly how this game compares to other games in the Atelier series. Since this game is the first game in the series I have played. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my time with this game quite a lot. The game is on the surface of a relaxing game with a lot of charm. But, don’t get fooled, this game can become quite hectic in a good way.

The game is quite enjoyable to play but difficult to master. You really need to plan every single move to make sure to you get yourself in a difficult situation.

This game is perfect for everybody who is looking for an RPG with a crafting system or somebody who is looking for a shop simulator. While I can totally understand why some people won’t enjoy this game too much, it did click with me.

But the game is far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong, this game is quite good but it has some flaws that hinder the gameplay in my opinion. Like the strict deadlines and the repetitive nature of the game.

Personally, I recommend that you give this game a try. If only there was a demo of this game you could try out and judge for yourself if this game is for you are not. I bought this game because the screenshots and descriptions looked interesting on the Nintendo eShop and I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, I can’t wait to play the other games in this trilogy to see if they improved the mechanics in the other games. Maybe they crafted an even better adventure while they kept everything that worked quite well in this game.

Do keep in mind that I’m not saying that this is a bad game. It’s a good game with some flaws. It’s up to you to decide if these flaws would hinder your enjoyment of the game or not. Since this game has a lot of depth so you will be able to have a lot of fun with this game.

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

Score: 70/100

Review: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

death mark

Official website

You are walking on a street and you overhear two schoolgirls talking to each other. They tell a story about one of their teachers dying in a horrible death. Her arm was found in the library of the school, cut off from the rest of the body with a red bite mark on the hand. That’s how Death Mark opens. The game I decided to play during the Halloween season because I already finished Angels of Death by then. Since I started playing the Zero Escape series and Corpse Party, I have been hooked on the horror genre. I wanted to play more horror games or games with a strong focus on horror. It doesn’t need to be survival horror like Resident Evil 4 or Silent Hill but a game that fits the mood of the holiday perfectly. Now, I know I’m terribly late with my review of this game. But, it was part of my top 10 games of 2018 list and I want to give my honest opinion on it. So, let’s talk about the PS Vita game that got ported to the Switch called Death Mark. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Alive until dawn

nswitch_deathmark_05So, the story of this game centers around the mystery of the mysterious Death Mark people has been receiving. This red bit mark appears on people’s bodies when they interact with spirits. The protagonist of this game suffers from your typical case of memory loss and doesn’t remember his past. After you heard the two girls their story, your own mark starts to burn and you get teleported to a mansion. When you enter the mansion, you find it to be abandoned. When you visit one of the bedrooms, a thunder crack reveals the dead body of a girl on the floor with flowers blooming from her stomach and chest. Startled, you run down starts where you meet up with a doll that explains to you that the Death Mark is quite real.

If you are unable to remove your mark, you will die by the time dawn comes. One theory that you quickly form is that you can possibly remove the mark by killing or defeating a spirit. But, how do you kill a spirit? How do you kill something that is already dead? Well, by trying to solve the grudge that is keeping them in the living realm.

After you got the explanation of the living wooden doll that lives on the sofa in the entrance of the mansion, you heard a knock on the door. You open the door and find two teenagers. They are looking for the previous inhabitant of the mansion. She is a spiritual healer and they are looking for her help to get rid of the same mark you possess. It’s revealed that she was the dead body you discovered earlier. So, you try and take her place. So, now you start in trying to help the other people with a Death Mark while trying to discover who you are and which spirit gave you your Death Mark.

All of this is explained in a quite lengthy introduction. The writing of this game is amazing. If this story sounds interesting to you, I have to give you a fair warning. This game is a visual novel adventure game. There is quite a lot of text in this game. If you aren’t interested in playing a game that has more dialogue then gameplay, this isn’t your game.

I do have to say that the writing is amazing in this game. The story has a weird charm. On one hand, the game has amazing characters and great development. It didn’t take long before I got attached to certain characters and I got quite invested in them. Yet, this game is also a horror game. So, a lot of creepy stuff happens on your journey. From finding dead bodies to combating spirits, this game has it all. This game has just the perfect mix between the two worlds and I have no complaints about them. The pacing of the game is just perfect as well.

The only minor disappointment is that the characters are voice acted in Japanese. Now, I don’t mind the Japanese voice acting that much, but I personally prefer English voice acting. The whole game isn’t voice acted, but quite a lot is. The voice acted that is present in the game is really great. But, I’m not going to critique it too much since I don’t know enough about Japanese to say it’s good or bad. But, from my personal experience, I feel that the voice actors always used the right emotion to what appears on the screen.

This game has 6 chapters. The original PS Vita game had 5 chapters and one DLC chapter. The DLC chapter is included for free in this Switch port. There is something in terms of the chapters I’m quite on the fence about. The chapters themselves are not too long nor too short. But, if you combine all playtime to get through the game and fully beat it, this game takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete. This game is quite short, too short even.

Near the end, I was so invested in the game, I was extremely bummed when I finished the final chapter. I wanted to play more, explore the world and setting of the game a bit more. But alas. Thankfully, this game doesn’t have a lot of filler content. The story in some chapters can go at a breakneck pace and that was a refreshing experience.

Explore and read

nswitch_deathmark_04One of my favorite genres in video games is the visual novel. There are two types of visual novels; the ones with gameplay and the kinetic ones. The kinetic ones almost have no gameplay and I honestly dislike playing. This game isn’t a kinetic novel. In this game, you have to explore various areas where a spirit is roaming. During your exploration, you have to find a reason for the grudge of the spirit.

While you are exploring the area, you can come across live or death situations. You get presented with different options and if you choose the wrong option, you get a game over. In some cases, you lose soul power. What is this soul power? It’s the power of your soul, when this drops to 0, the spirit of the chapter catches you right away.

When you are in a live or death situation, you are timed. The remaining time you have is the remaining soul power you have. During your exploration, you can find talismans that restore your soul power if it gets low. Now that I have beaten the game, I can say that there is no additional reward when you answer all the questions correctly without losing soul power. This is a missed opportunity. It would be great if this unlocked the additional 6th chapter or some character art.

Anyways, your soul powerfully restores in-between chapters. So, you aren’t punished for mistakes in an earlier chapter. Personally, my favorite chapter is the 6th chapter. The moral of that chapter speaks to me on a personal level.

Now, there are two different endings to this game. The ending that you get depends if you are able to fully solve the grudge of the spirit of that chapter. So, when it comes to the climax of each chapter, think long and hard before you make your next move. Since one mistake during those battles can change the ending dramatically.

Speaking about the climax of each chapter, think carefully about who you take as a partner on your journey. Sometimes you will be unable to defeat a spirit if you don’t have the right character in your party. I loved trying to work out who would be the best character to use against the spirit. Reading their character profile is even more important now than before. My advice is, save often. You are only able to save outside of dialogue sections. So, don’t be a hero and save after you made some progress. Also, pay attention that this game doesn’t automatically save. And when you are dead, you have to restart from your last save point. You can save using the “Y” button. There are a limited amount of save slots, so use them wisely.

Saving is this game is quite easy. After the introduction, you can save when you are in the mansion in a limited amount of save slots. Now, if you want to be able to restart a chapter, I highly advise you to save right after the introduction of the chapter. Since there is no other way to start from a certain chapter. The only option in the main menu are: new game, continue or a gallery. In this gallery, you can see the animation of the spirits and the images you saw during the chapter.

In terms of UI, this game is good. I have no real complaints. I do have some minor suggestions. Especially with the inventory screen. This would feel so much better if the inventory screen had a static image of the item you have selected. Now, it’s just a boring-looking list of items, like you would see in a spreadsheet.

Anyways, sometimes the story of one spirit links to the story of another spirit. In that case, you can always read a small summary in the pause menu. During that, you can watch the amazing full-screen pictures that were used during the chapter.

During each chapter, you have to explore a location. You can only explore with one partner. The other partner or partners will stay at the mansion to look for clues in solving the mystery of the Death Mark. You can go at any moment to the entrance of the location to take the car back to the mansion to change partners. Like I said earlier, the choice of partner matters. If you are unable to solve a puzzle or pass through a location, try having another partner.

The locations themselves aren’t that large. It doesn’t take too long before you are able to fully explore the location. Now, there is something to do in each and every screen of the game. From small jump scares to big puzzles. Oh yes, this game has small jump scares. Most of the jump scares are rather subtle and aren’t too distracting from the exploration. To be honest, I found them used quite well. Also, it’s possible that you don’t even see all the jump scares since they are location specific.

During your journey for the truth in the Death Mark mystery, you explore a forest, a school, and various other locations. Each location is extremely memorable. The detail in the artwork of each location is impressive. The atmosphere building with the visual presentation in this game is a strong point of this game. I really felt on edge while exploring certain locations. I really felt that the location I was exploring had a certain presence and a morbid history to it. On some occasions, the game managed to get underneath my skin.

Now, in terms of the animations, this game has a lot of missed potential. Apart from the spirit battles, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. I think it would have been better if the game had a bit more animations and scene transitions. For example, a walking animation from going between rooms would aid a lot with the world-building and immersion. And if you give the option to the players to turn this animation on or off, it would be perfect. Now, there is a small dialogue box that appears when you move between rooms with a sound effect, but could be so much more.

On the edge of my seat

nswitch_deathmark_03Exploration in this game is really well done. During the game, you are able to use your flashlight to investigate each and every room. I highly advise that you look around carefully in each and every room. Since every little detail can aid you in your quest to solve the grudge of the spirit. The game helps you out a bit in the investigation. When you can interact with something, you see a little sparkle animation when you hover over it with your flashlight.

When you have to use an item in your quest, the item will be automatically used. Expect during the spirit battles. In those battles, you have to use every item in your inventory to try and defend yourself. You and the spirit take turns in making a move. If the spirit comes too close, it’s game over.

Apart from one puzzle, the puzzles in this game are well crafted. They really test your skills in exploring the area you are in and your investigation skills. Exploring the location gets even better with the fluid controls. The flashlight is mapped to one of the joysticks of the joycon and reacts very responsively.

Now, there is one thing that could turn some people off and that is the map system. During the exploration, you have a mini-map of the location at the top right. This mini-map is nothing more than a few squares and lines on how the squares connect. So, you will have to build a mental map of the location during your exploration. This is highly essential when you don’t want to get lost. A more detailed map would have been welcome, but I felt it added to the world-building of the game. Remember the story? You only have the few short hours of the night to try and get rid of the grudge of the spirit before you die. So, creating an actual map might lose too much time.

The controls in this game are quite decent. Sometimes I got a bit disoriented, but that’s because of my mediocre navigational skills in games. It doesn’t take long before you get used to the control scheme of this game and learn to use it to your advantage.

The exploration is added with some great sound and music design. The soundtrack sounds like a combination of the Zero Escape series, Ace Attorney and Corpse Party. The music gives off eerie vibes and fits the visual presentation like a glove. I’m actually hunting down the soundtrack of this game to add it to my music library.

Together with the amazing sound effects, the visual and audiovisual presentation of this game is a real treat. I can’t make any complaints about that aspect of the game. Before I keep repeating myself, I think it’s time that we talk about another aspect of the game.

The difficulty of this game is just right. The game is even more difficult when you don’t pay attention during the investigation. In the later chapters, I even took some physical notes to aid myself during the investigation.

Now, if you forgot to save, there is a button that you can use to fast forward the cut scenes. I rarely used this button since I was too invested in the story. I used this button only once when I forgot to save before a LIVE OR DEATH situation and I got a game over… Now, I could have used the “decide again” option to restart from the beginning of the LIVE OR DEATH situation but I lost too much soul power. So, restarting from an earlier point actually benefited me.

Also, there is a message log you can access. A minor complaint is that the button to fast forward is quite hidden in the UI. It’s the L-button.

The replay value of his game isn’t too high. Not counting replays for fun, you can play twice through the game before you have seen it all. Now, this isn’t a big issue but more endings would extend the already short overall game time.

With that said, I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to go to the summary and closing statement of this review.

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

  • The game is too short.
  • The game has a lot of text.
  • A bit more animations would enhance the game a lot.
  • You can’t restart a chapter without a save.

Final thoughts:

This game is not for everybody. If you don’t like a game that has a lot of text, I think that it’s best for you to skip this game. If you enjoy games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Walking Dead, Corpse Party, Trace Memory… I highly recommend this game.

This game is the perfect game to play through on Halloween night or whenever you are in the mood to play more horror focused games. The writing, pacing, audio and visual presentation of this game is very well done. The biggest flaw of this game is that it’s too short. I got so invested and the ride was over before I knew it.

Now, a spiritual successor is going to be released in Japan really soon called NG. I really hope and wish that they are going to bring this game to the west as well. Since the trailer looks amazing and I really would love to play it.

I can totally see why some people would be turned off by this game. But personally, I loved my playthrough. When you play this game, don’t use a walkthrough. This game gets even more fun when you aren’t using a walkthrough to guide you every step of the way.

If you ask me, I think that this game is totally worth its price. This developer really convinced me of the quality games they can put out. While this game has flaws, in my eyes they don’t ruin the experience at all. But, I’m really going to hammer this home… This game would be perfect if there were a bit more chapters. A bit more content.

And with that said, I have really said everything I could 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!

Score: 90/100

First Impression: Resident Evil 4 (PS2) ~ Leon, Help Me! LEEEEOOONN!

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Wikipedia entry

Not too long ago, I revealed my 10 favorite games I have started playing in 2018. One of these games was Resident Evil 4. Now, I shorty explained why I enjoyed that game so much in that article but I think it’s time to give a more in-depth opinion on the game. I haven’t finished the game yet, I’m closing in on the mid-way point of the game. I think I have seen enough of the game to give my first impressions on the game and to give my honest opinion on the game. So, will this be the game that drags me into survival horror or will this game be the one that turns me off? As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

Ashley & Leon’s “vacation”

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In this game, you take on the role of Leon S. Kennedy. A police officer that was involved with Raccoon City that has been sent to Spain to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter. Very quickly after your arrival, you discover that things aren’t normal and that something went horribly wrong. It’s up to Leon to find and rescue Ashley as quickly as he can.

The writing in this game is excellent. Some story elements are explained in notes you can find in the world and others are explained in cutscenes. The voice acting is amazing, I especially love the voice acting during combat sections since it really helps with building the atmosphere. The only missed opportunity, in my opinion, is that there aren’t a lot of interactions between Ashley and Leon during your exploration. Maybe Bioshock Infinite with Booker and Elisabeth spoiled me too much there.

Most of this game is a sort of escort quest. But, Leon isn’t taking Ashley on a nice vacation to Spain, at all. Remember the start of this section? Leon came to the village to extract Ashley and get her back to the United States of the Americas.

Now, I’ll talk more about gameplay mechanics later but first I want to talk about a flaw with the story of this game. The flaw is that some parts of the story, especially some characters and events aren’t explained too well to newcomers. This game is the first Resident Evil game I’m trying to beat and I had to look up certain things. Now, on the other hand, these unexplained gaps in the story made me even more interested to play the previous Resident Evil games so that everything can fall into place.

Since I haven’t beaten the game, I won’t comment on the writing too much. To be quite honest, I feel that sometimes the story takes a bit of a backseat and is more used as a sort of tool to string different sections together. I even dare to say that you would be able to cut some sections out without it making a (big) impact on the story or the atmosphere. Yes, the notes fill in some of the gaps but since they are optional and can be skipped, the story feels incomplete to me. As if there were sections removed from the final version.

Ashley isn’t Elisabeth

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Now, I knew in advance that this game was going to be an escort mission sort of game. I have played Bioshock Infinite, so I got used to guiding a character around.

Now, there are big differences between Elisabeth and Ashley. First of all, Ashley can be kidnapped. Whenever certain enemies are close to her, she can be picked up and kidnapped. Whenever she is dragged through a door to another section, it’s game over.

There are two other big differences. The first is that Ashley isn’t helpful during your exploration. You can tell her to wait, hide and follow you. She can only hide in certain places, she doesn’t look for them herself. Now, I tested out how good her pathfinding is. Whenever I called for her when she was in hiding and I ran to a corner of the map, she was always able to find me and team up with me.

The second big difference is that Ashley isn’t invincible. If you see the screenshot I placed a bit earlier, you notice that Ashley has a health bar as well. So, you have to be careful that Ashley doesn’t take damage. Since you need to rescue her alive. Whenever you use your healing items, you can choose to heal either yourself or Ashley.

Thankfully, both Elisabeth and Ashley rarely get in your way during combat. Elisabeth goes and looks for items while Ashley ducks so fast when you aim at an enemy behind her, it’s almost impossible to hit her. Also, whenever I threw a grenade in her direction to try and defeat an enemy close to her, she quickly gets out of the way. Thank god, I would have thrown out the disc if that wasn’t the case.

Now, I have been talking about the differences between Ashley and Elisabeth for a while now. But, how does this gameplay? What is the actual gameplay? This game is an adventure-exploration 3D shooter game. I even dare to say that you can compare it to the reboot Tomb Raider games to a certain extent. The big differences are Ashley and that this game focuses more on big bosses and horror than Tomb Raider.

I have to admit that I’m playing this game on the easy difficulty. Because this is one of my first times I’m playing a survival horror game, I wanted to get used to the mechanics before I challenged myself and played through the genre on a harder difficulty. Surprisingly, this game keeps being challenging. I’m always thinking of how I can save the ammo of my most powerful weapons to quickly dispatch groups of enemies.

The biggest thing I dislike during combat is that I can’t see a difference between an enemy that is close to dying and one that is full health. What is even more annoying is that it’s sometimes, and especially with the bosses, hard to read if you are hitting them or not. In one run, I was sure I hit an enemy but the enemy didn’t go down and used her chainsaw to insta-kill me. The red dot at the end of where you are aiming is too small and too little of an indication during hectic combat. Because of this, I’m sure that I have wasted so much ammo fighting bosses.

I think I can summarize it like this: the combat is a bit rough around the edges. While it’s a lot of fun, sometimes I got annoyed with the limitations of the mechanics. On one hand, I can understand where the developers were coming from. This game is a survival horror game after all and you have to fell tense and afraid since it’s a horror game. On the other hand, it doesn’t take away that I would have loved to see a bit more polish on the combat.

Something I’m disappointed a bit by is the puzzles. I feel that most of the puzzles rely a bit too much on the “press the buttons in the right order” cliché. Almost all of the non-combat puzzles have to press switches in a certain sequence. Granted, I’m somewhere in the middle of the game so, it’s quite possible that the rest of the game will have a bit more unique puzzles.

It has aged

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Because I’m a retro gamer, I don’t mind it when games look dated. If you wondered why I didn’t play the HD version for this article, I can easily explain that by saying that I was able to pick up a physical copy of the original and that interests me more as a collector.

Now, the game looks fine on PS2. There is a lot of detail in the atmosphere of the game and the monster design is delicious grotesque. I especially love it when characters transform mid-battle because then I have to think quickly and change my strategy accordingly.

But alas, the fact that this game is now almost 15 years old is starting to show. In certain sections, I feel that there isn’t enough detail. I also had the impression that in certain sections, the textures on the models were a bit too flat making certain objects like a bed in the castle look like it would belong in a PS1 Tomb Raider game. I haven’t played the HD version of the game, but from what I have seen, all the complaints I have about the visuals… well, let’s just say that the HD version looks a LOT better than the PS2 version. I even checked some comparison videos between the Gamecube, Wii and this version of the game and I have to say, that the versions on the Nintendo platforms look a lot better.

Now, I’m not saying that this game looks ugly. Remember that I said that this game looks fine? Well, I really stand by that. I love all the detail they put in the world and the animations in this game are amazing. I especially love how destructible the world is. When a huge boss throws a tree to a shack you are standing in, the tree doesn’t break on the shack because video games, the tree actually breaks the shack because of realism.

The only “negative” I can say in terms of the animations is that certain death scenes are a bit too scripted. What I mean is for example, when you kill an enemy with a headshot, it doesn’t go down right away. It nearly always takes a few steps forward before collapsing. This isn’t the only example of that, but it stands out. But, after a while, I got used to it and it didn’t bother me that much.

Now, besides puzzles and combat; there is one other part of the gameplay I haven’t mentioned. And that are the quick-time events. In certain sections, you have too much a button as quick as you can to survive. These sections were the most annoying sections of the game in my opinion. Thankfully, they are short. So, they are over without too much hassle.

This game doesn’t have an autosave. You can save at certain save points scattered around. You can save an infinite amount of times as long as you are at the typewriter. Thankfully, when you get a game over, you don’t have to restart from your last save point. You start from the section you died at. For example, when you died during a quick time event with a boss and die, you respawn at the start of that quick-time event. This is a great feature since whenever I died, I learned something new and I got a new idea on how to possibly defeat the boss.

Besides strategy, there is something else that helps with defeating bosses and that are good controls. This game has that. The only things I struggle a bit with are turning while using the knife or aiming with a weapon. Now, turning with a knife isn’t too much of an issue. I stop pushing the knife button and press it again when I have done my turn.

The aiming of weapons is a different story. This game is one of the first games I played on a console that involves a lot of shooting. I’m quite used to being able to easily shoot using a mouse of the Wii Remote. I had to get used to aiming with a joystick. To my surprise, I quickly got used to it. When I look at the stats at the end of each level, I notice that I’m improving quite a lot in my accuracy.

To my surprise, I haven’t talked about the music and sound design of this game and it’s almost the end of the article. The soundtrack of this game is one that helps build the atmosphere quite well. Personally, I wouldn’t listen to most of the tracks outside of the game, but I enjoy the soundtrack quite a lot during gameplay.

The sound design of this game gets a big thumbs up from me. The game sound just right, from the sound of the guns to enemies transforming. It all sounds like you would imagine it sounding in real life.

Well, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I know that I haven’t talked about everything but I’ll leave those things for my review if I ever write one on this game. So, I think it’s time to wrap up this article.

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