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

Wikipedia pageSteam pageOfficial website

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

Pop goes the Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emotional Telephone Booths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Joy or not to Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impression: Prey 2017 (PC – Steam) ~ This is the real one.

Wikipedia entrySteam page

I love atmospheric shooters. Ever since I played games like Bioshock, Outlaws, Blood, Doom (2016) … I fell in love with shooters that are more than just your typical war or good versus evil shooters. One day, on a school friend’s birthday, he gave a pile of games he got for his birthday to me. It were a whole pile of shooters that he got as a present. He didn’t like shooters, and he knew I was a game collector. One of these games was the original Prey game. Now, that game ended on a cliffhanger and Prey 2 never released. Instead, 4 years ago now, we got a reboot of the franchise or a game with the same name called Prey. The only thing that those two have in common from what I can see is that they are both atmospheric fantasy shooters. But is this Prey 2017 game also good enough to be played, or should I have skipped this game? Well, let’s find out together in this article, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or the game.

The real one

In this game, you take on the role of Morgan Yu. A researcher in this alternate timeline where the Soviet Union found a special type of aliens. After doing some tests, you find out that your life is a lie and that you are living in a simulation. It doesn’t take long before the scary things start happening, and you find out that the base you are living was attacked. These attackers are quite powerful black blobs who can mimic anything. So, it’s up to Yu to find out what happened and to save the day if needed.

Now, trying to briefly explain what happens in the story if this game is extremely tricky since this game has a lot of lore and explaining too much might spoil some neat surprises the story takes. So, since I don’t like to spoil games in my articles, I’m not going to talk too much more about what happens in the story of this game.

As a big fan of the Bioshock franchise, I do have to say that I love the way this story is paced. I always wanted to play another game that resembles the gameplay formula but does a lot of things differently. Just like in Bioshock, this game takes you from area to solve puzzles, fight enemies and progress in the story. I felt right at home.

The voice acting in this game is excellent. I love how you can choose the gender of the main character, and they are both done by excellent actors. If you want to dive deeper into the voice actors, the page on Behind the Voice Actors lists them all quite nicely.

The atmosphere of this game combined with the amazing voice work really pulls me into the game. Like I said before, I felt right at home and I felt that my wish of playing another atmospheric shooter like the Bioshock games was coming true.

This game is a horror adventure shooter game. That’s the best way I can describe this game. I hesitate to call this game an RPG but then again, it has various elements of that. During your travels, you can find neuromods that can unlock abilities like being able to lift heavier things or resist more damage. You can compare it to the skill system that is used in the Tomb Raider reboot games.

Apart from this, you can also find junk lying around in this game that you can transform into usual materials you can use to craft more ammo or better weapons. But beware, all these items are in a shared inventory, together with your weapons, ammo, healing items and so on. Compare the inventory system to Resident Evil 4.

Exploration in outer space

Almost like DooM 2016, this game doesn’t really take place on Earth. It’s set in space, Talos I to be exact. Unlike DooM 2016, there are outer space sections in this game. Then again, DooM 2016 goes to hell and back. Anyways, you go through various locations during your adventure in this game, and you even have sections that are in outer space that gave a similar feeling to the underwater sections in Bioshock 2. But, I haven’t gotten far enough into the game to tell you what these “out door” sections are all about.

During this adventure, you can use a huge amount of weapons. So far, I have gotten three very different types of guns and various types of grenades. So, the most common enemies in this game are the mimics. These enemies can change into various objects in the space station. Thankfully, your weapons can be quite helpful. For example, your crossbow has reusable darts you can shoot when you suspect a certain object to be a mimic. Another example is the first gun you get in this game, the gloop gun. This gun can’t only stun mimics, but it can also be used to create ladders to climb walls.

I really like how open this game feels. With the various power ups you can unlock and the various uses of your weapons, this game feels like an open world game, while it is anything but. The levels/area’s are quite open and you can totally choose how to tackle them. So, I think the replay value in this game will be quite high all the while this game having a very linear story.

In terms of difficulty, this game isn’t the easiest nor the hardest game I have ever played. Depending on the things you unlock in the skill tree, this game can become easier. But don’t get me wrong, this game kept challenging me in quite unique ways. Quite often, I had to think outside the box to solve certain sections or to find secrets. I loved reading the various lore books scattered around the levels. They gave so much more depth to the story. Those were quite rewarding secrets to find.

I have to admit that I find this game quite addictive to play. This game feels like an amazing cross between amazing elements of great games like Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, DooM, System Shock and Bioshock. And it works together so amazingly. I had to adjust the default control scheme a little to suit my AZERTY keyboard lay-out a bit more, but the fact that it recognizes my AZERTY keyboard made me smile. Speaking about the controls, they are excellent. I always felt in control of my character, and every death felt like my mistake and not the game cheating me out of it.

Peek-a-boo!

The AI of the enemies in this game is excellent. The amount of times I was chasing a mimic while it disappeared on me… for me having to turn the corner and suddenly a chair transforms back into a mimic and attacks me… Well, I can’t tell you how much something along those lines happened.

This brings me to the visual presentation of this game. I’m so glad that this game runs so fluently on my GTX 1050Ti, so I can experience the visuals of this game in all its glory. Just look at the screenshots I chose in this article. The environmental details in this game are amazing. Together with the excellent animations, moments like I described above work so well in this game. This space station really feels like it would have been a real work and living space for some, many people, making the atmosphere more realistic and more enjoyable.

I have jumped out of my chair several times while playing this game. Especially when the mimics suddenly attacked me or when a big mimic monster started to follow or attack me. But, there were also moments where I was extremely impressed on the presentation this game has. I think this game is going to hold up visually quite well in the future, it looks that good in my opinion.

But, what is an amazing visual presentation without sound design and music? I’m happy to say that this game also delivers on that front. The techno-dance / orchestral soundtrack of this game only adds to the atmosphere. The soundtrack is done by Mick Gordon together with Ben Crossbones, Matt Piershall and Raphaël Colantonio. These composers did an amazing job on this soundtrack and made some amazing soundtracks for other games in this own rights.

And yes, the sound effects are also amazing. I always feel like I have to be on my toes while strange noises fill the empty and scary hallways of the space station. I think I might repeat myself again here, but I felt on edge while playing this game, in the good way. Almost everything in this game falls into place just right for me. I actually had a hard time writing this article since I wanted to keep playing the game more than I felt like finishing this article.

So far, I have been praising this game quite a lot. Are there things that I didn’t like about this game? Sadly enough, there are a few of them. The first is that the crafting process of ammo is a bit silly since you can’t mutli craft. Seriously, when I want a ton of gloo gun ammo, I have to craft them one by one.

Secondly, the amount of healing items is a tad bit too low in this game. I felt that one mistake gets too harshly pushing. One time in the outer space section, I bumped into an explosive that took out almost all my health. So, back inside the station… A strong enemy is waiting for me. Oh well, this might have been my bad luck or more moments where you can heal would be nice.

And to be honest, that’s it in terms of negatives. I could complain about the game sometimes lagging a bit, but that’s mostly because my system meets the recommended specs quite well. My CPU is a lot stronger, but my GPU is just one generation newer.

Do I recommend this game? Oh heavens yes, I do. If you enjoy games like I mentioned in this article, shooters, horror games, Dead Space… I think this game is going to be one for you! When I bought this game, I knew that I was going to enjoy this game, but I didn’t expect the game exceeding my hype and hopes for the game. I can’t wait for my summer holidays to start since then I can start on finishing this amazing title. I’m also glad that I’m playing this game after the technical issues that this game had at the start with save games. According to howlongtobeat.com, this game is going to take around 40-ish hours to beat, and I currently am 5 hours in. So, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to be pulled into the mystery of the mimics and phantoms and what happened on that space station. But I’m not going to be the Prey… right?

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

Game Quicky: Colorful Colore (Switch) ~ It’s Sliding Time

colorfulcolorSteam pageNintendo.com microsite

On the day before my 28th birthday, I want to talk about a game called Colorful Colore. A game developed by a small team of developers and ported by Drageus Games over to the Nintendo Switch. As usual with Drageus Games, I got a free press code to take a look at this game and I’m allowed to give my 100% honest opinion on the game. So, in this game quicky article, I’m going to take a look at the Switch port and if it’s worth it to pick it up for the low price of 3 bucks or if you should spend your money elsewhere. With that said, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Sliding just right

colorful-colore-switch-screenshot01The goal of this game is quite simple. You have to solve sliding puzzles to get from the start of the level to the end point of the level. There are 50 levels in this game for you to go through. I think the best game to compare this game too is Quell. 

There is an unique mechanic in this game where the blob and the tile it lands on has to color match. If you don’t have the same color, it’s game over and you have to restart the level. So, you have to find the correct way to the end before you get yourself stuck or make a wrong move. 

It’s a great thing that this game has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese, but it shouldn’t matter that much since the UI is so clean, the language of the game shouldn’t matter. The UI is extremely simple to use and get the hang off. 

Just like the responsive controls of this game. There is no input delay and the controls are fast and easy to learn. I don’t have any complaints about them since they allow to play my relaxing puzzle game in peace. 

This puzzle game is so relaxing with the colorful art-style and the relaxing sound effects and music, it works beautifully. I could nitpick and say that the same music track loops throughout the whole game, but it’s rather relaxing and brings me into the right mood to play this game. This game has that “just one more puzzle” mentality and I’m still amazed that this nice little game only costs 3€ and it has this high quality in it’s animations, visuals, music and sound. It’s a joy to slide in these puzzles and to solve them.

Sliding towards doom

ss_e29449a5e0c4dea278a8256d4ff5f426b8904ff4.600x338Sadly enough, there are some negatives I could say about this game. Things that could be improved or could be changed to make an even better game to play and to give it some more life. 

First of all, I was a bit disappointed to learn that stats are lacking in this game. It would be so great to see if I finished the level with the least amount of moves or with the fastest time. And if you could reset those stats in the options menu, where you even can’t reset your progress by the way, then it would be even better. 

Second, some of the teleport icons are too small. When I was playing this game, I had the most comfortable experience in handheld mode with the game at an arm’s length to my face. On my large 51-inch TV, I felt a bit more confused since I had to focus on the symbols on the teleporters for them to make sense which one is which. 

Thirdly, and I can’t tell if this is a problem with this game or with these style of games but I found it quite annoying to “loose my character”. Since this game uses teleporters, I sometimes didn’t notice where my character was. Thankfully, you can hear a “tud” when the blob lands on a wall but here is the annoying thing. I fell that Quell did a better job with these teleporters. They are less instant, use some more sound effects and the player bubble has some minor animation when you loose it. 

Now, my 4th complaint has to do with the unique color-matching mechanic. While I’m no expert on colorblindness, I can totally understand that this game might be quite tricky to play for people who are colorblind. One of my old class mates wasn’t able to tell yellow and red apart and that’s going to be tricky in this game. 

My fifth point is that there is no hint system. While it’s a good thing that this game challenges you in trying to find the right solution, it’s quite annoying when you are stuck on a certain level just because you are unable to figure one or two moves out. I have to be honest, if the hint system in Quell didn’t exist, I would have put the game down in a few levels. I’m afraid that I or some other players will do the exact same for this game. 

And my final complaint is a nitpick and something that this game can’t really solve. This game suffers from the “better played in short bursts”-syndrome. While it has that “one more level” vibe for me, I enjoyed the game quite a lot more when I played it in short bursts while going to the bathroom or while waiting for my food to cook. 

With that said, it’s time for the wrap-up and the conclusion of this article.

Does it slide right?

ss_3904a05c6a4abd54c4e048d31f5b09a065e13d00.600x338If you compare this game to similar games in the genre like Quell, this game comes close but not close enough. Yet, that doesn’t mean that this game is a bad game or has a lot of flaws. 

This game does a lot right and most of the mistakes this game makes have to do with a lack of depth. There are no big flaws in the fundamentals of this game since it explains the game mechanics quite well without holding your hands as if you are a small child. 

To be honest, I’m a bit conflicted on the platform that this game released on. This game would feel perfect to become a mobile game but that might have several ads and it would ruin the flow of the game. Yet, the small teleporters playing the big screen is biggest issue that this Switch port has. And of course the lack of something to aid the people who are colorblind of course. 

Now, should you give this game a try? If you are looking for an enjoyable small puzzle game, I think you won’t be let down by this game. It’s sad to see that there is a lot of untapped potential in this game but hey, it would be quite rude to ask for even more when the game is so cheap. So, if you enjoy games like Quell, I think this game might be an enjoyable time waster while in the waiting room or in the bathroom. 

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. 

Publishing: Silicon Dreams – A New Kickstarter Release

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Hello there, dear readers. Jonez here. Before I let you enjoy the presskit of Silicon Dreams, I want to give you some background information. This game is under development by Clockwork Bird. This studio is the studio that also brought us Spinnortality. A game I took a look at in the summer of 2017. Today they are presenting their new game and the Kickstarter to fund the development. At first, I wanted to write an article about it but due to the lack of time, I was unable to get an article out before the end of the Kickstarter. That’s why I’m publishing the press kit for now. But don’t worry, you will get an article on this game later down the line since the idea behind the game interests me and I’m looking forward to telling you what I think about it. But in any case, without further ado… Here is the press release!

SDLogo_Now on Kickstarter.png

Short pitch

Interrogate androids in this cyberpunk conversation sim. Question androids, manipulate their emotions, gain their trust. Will you expose their secrets to the company, or risk everything to help them achieve independence?

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Long pitch

Artificial intelligence: it’s never been more advanced, more convincing or more affordable! Believable humanoid androids are as common as smartphones. A lawful and subservient android will be treated fairly. Renegades and non-conformists, or those that glitch too often, will, of course, be terminated.

It is your job to tell us which is which. Company policy encourages:

  • Investigation: delve into an android’s life story to truly understand them.
  • Emotional manipulation:  if an android trusts you it is more likely to share its secrets; if it’s angry, it may let something slip; or, perhaps it could be frightened into obedience?
  • Diagnosis: does the android conform to manufacturer specifications?
  • Action: should this android be wiped, or is it fit to return to service?
  • DO NOT allow glitched androids to escape. Our top priority is easing customer anxiety about “rogue androids” and “liberation movements”; we cannot afford to feed into that panic.

Company note: sympathizers who throw around words like “exploitation” and “slavery” will be terminated.

Kickstarter:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1870604859/silicon-dreams-interrogate-androids-in-a-cyberpunk-future

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Demo: https://clockwork-bird.itch.io/silicon-dreams

Trailer: https://youtu.be/X7tOQh3r7ao

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Screenshots

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Game Quicky: The Touryst (Switch) ~ Vacation With Adventure

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Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entryOfficial website

In the world we live in today, it’s not too advised to travel. To protect the risk groups from COVID-19 that is. So, that’s why I’m going to talk about a small indie game on the Nintendo Switch called The Touryst, where we can have a virtual vacation. But hold on, is this a holiday worth going on? Since, the holiday picture you see as cover art spells doom. It might go wrong pretty quickly. But, is that wrong as in, story-wise or wrong as in… a bad game? Let’s find out together in this game quicky article! 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. 

The good memories

NSwitchDS_TheTouryst_01

Just like in a vacation, the story of this game takes somewhat of a backseat. The story is there to explain certain things that the people of the island do. But what is the story of this game? Well, in this game you play as a guy going on a holiday. He discovers a way to enter a strange alien looking temple and when exploring that temple, his adventure is afoot.

While there is no voice acting in this game, the writing in the dialogue boxes is pretty good. Especially since there certain effects to some dialogue parts to put more character inside the dialogue boxes and on top of that, the characters of the game.

Something I really love about this game is the variety. There are so many things to do and puzzles to solve. While the main quest takes you on a journey through various temples and you solve various platforming challenges, the other puzzles and side quests take you on a journey through a beach party, jazz club, art museum and many other places.

It’s quite impressive that in a game that’s only 6-ish hours long, that there is so many different things to do. I have even seen speedruns of people completing this game in under one hour. So, this game is quite speedrun friendly.

The controls of this game are quite close to perfect. The are easy to understand and extremely responsive. I was able to understand all my abilities even after a month or so of not playing the game.

The UI and “TO DO list” is one of the best I have seen in a while. It logs almost everything and it’s easy to navigate and find. Per island you get a list of the tasks you still can do to progress either the main story or a side quest. The only minor complaint I have is that the load game feature is under the options menu. I just wish that this was it’s own menu with a sort of “save and quit” feature as the first save file or something.

The performance of this game is mind blowing. The game runs smoothly at 60FPS and I can’t tell you one spot where it dropped lower than 60FPS. Together with the impressive visual design, this game is a technical master class for other developers. The visual presentation of this game is something I really enjoyed. It reminds me of a sort of smooth Lego-ish vibe with the stunning voxel graphics.

The animations are wonderful to look at as well with the steady and high frame rate. To me, it was extremely immersive. I really loved going onto the islands and exploring around to see what the game had to offer. I loved how the footprints stayed in the sand or how the lighting of the sun changed when you moved the camera around.

Couple this with an amazing soundtrack and sound design together with the rather relaxing and sometimes tense atmosphere of this game and you have another reason why I feel that this game deserves a lot of praise. But, there is something… something dark lurking while I’m praising this game.

The bad memories

TheTouryst-IL1Sadly enough, this adventure isn’t perfect. There are some mistakes in this adventure that I think could have been better. The first thing that I found a big bummer is the fact that there can be only one save file in the game.

Speaking about saving, something I found a bit disappointing was the fact that when you choose save and quit in a monument, that you have to restart the whole monument. So, better put the Switch in sleep mode than choosing save and quit.

Now, something I talked about in this article earlier were the controls. Some of the controls still need some fine tuning like the aiming controls. I had to wrestle with the aiming controls more often then not. This is such a big shame in my opinion. Also, this might be just me but the ledge grabbing mechanic didn’t always work for me.

There were some mini games and platforming sections that were a tad bit too difficult in my opinion. Especially when some tricky jumps were involved. It was so annoying when I fell into a pit just because I jumped a bit too early. Thankfully, you do respawn quickly, but the whole room resets. So, yeah, if it’s a puzzle involving a lot of steps… Let’s just say it’s extremely irritating.

The fact that there is no real hint system is a bit frustrating. In some boss battles I had to find the solution by complete accident. There is some trail and error in this game. While I didn’t find this too big of an issue, I can see that this might be a turn off for some people.

With that said, I think it’s time we reached a conclusion. Don’t you think as well? Should you go to your nearest Nintendo eShop Travel Agent and book this holiday or should you avoid it?

Travel verdict

This game is a hidden gem. While it’s quite short, it’s a blast to play and explore the worlds that were created for this adventure. But, there are some cracks in this gem that might turn people off from playing it.

It feel like some parts weren’t polished enough and that made some sections a bit too frustrating. Thankfully, those moments aren’t too frequent and spread out quite a bit.

This game is a joy to beat but a nightmare to complete. I can only agree from what I have read from other reviewers, there are some (optional) sections like the surfing and soccer game that make this game almost a rage quitting affair.

Well, I think that this game is highly worth your time and money if you enjoy exploration games, puzzle games, platformers, indie games… There is a huge audience for this game I think. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if this game didn’t click with everybody. Since, this game can be frustrating but also a bit repetitive.

Thankfully, there is a demo. So, you can try before you buy. My advise is that you first give the demo of this game a try and if you feel that it’s your cup of tea (or coffee, or beer or …) then you buy this game. Since, it’s a joyful adventure with some weaker spots that’s a blast to experience.

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

Score: 80/100

Gamer’s Thoughts: Looking Forward to 2020.

2020_0With a bit of a delay, the article that I was going to write at the end of December is here. Anyways, 2020 is here. It’s a new decennium and I’m quite excited about it. I have a lot of plans in my personal life for this year, but there are a lot of games I’m looking forward to be playing this year. If you want to know what my favorite games were in 2019, I have already written an article about that. In this article, I’m going to talk about 10 games I’m looking forward to be playing in 2020. Unlike my top 10 list of 2019, this list will only have games that are going to release in 2020. Since I can’t predict which games I’m going to add to my collection this year. Feel free to leave a comment with your list and/or your opinion on my list and/or games. Anyways, let’s dive right into the list!

#10 – Desperados 3 (PC) (TBA)

Desperados IIIIt looks like a ton of games I’m excited for often get delayed. In 2018, I wanted to play Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. It took until 2019 when I was able to play the game.

Now when I learned that a series from my childhood, Desperados is going to get a reboot/new entry in the franchise, I was quite hyped. This game was going to release in 2019, but the year has come and gone and the game hasn’t been released…

To be honest, I never finished any Desperados game due to the rather difficult nature of the game. But I had quite a lot of fun trying to beat the levels over and over again. I got quite far in the original game where I was a few levels removed from the ending of the game.

I’m planning to replay the Desperados games to review them on my blog in the future and maybe I’m going to do a marathon with as the final review the new game. For those who don’t know how Desperados plays, let me explain that to you.

So, the game plays a bit like Fire Emblem in a way, but instead of it being turn-based, it’s in real-time. In a way, it also elements of the Metal Gear Solid series where enemies react on sounds, vision and other elements in their surroundings. I find it quite difficult to explain in text, but if you watch a bit of a playthrough, you quickly get an idea of the gameplay.

Quick reflexes, good stealth, quick thinking, and good planning are key to surviving in this game. And this is all set in a western-style game that has interesting and diverse characters that test your skills to the absolute limit.

#9 – Animal Crossing – New Horizons (Switch) (March 20th, 2020)

Animal Crossing New Horizons TempLarge

While I’m not the biggest fan of the Animal Crossing series and I’m not the biggest fan of the gameplay, I would lie if I said that I wasn’t excited about the new Animal Crossing game.

The new game is about camping and building your own town from scratch. I haven’t kept myself up-to-date with the latest news on the game for a reason since I want to keep myself as spoiler-free as possible.

From the footage I have seen, I can tell that a lot of campaign and scouts’ memories will come back to me while playing this game. And that’s the biggest reason that I’m excited about this game. So, yeah. Let’s see how that is going to turn out.

#8 – Minecraft Dungeons (PC) (TBA – April 2020)

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Just like Desperados III, this game was on my list last year. I was looking forward to being able to play this game in 2019. Sadly enough, this game has been delayed to 2020.

Now that we got more information on the game, I’m even more excited to be able to play this game. Especially since this game is going to include multiplayer!

While I have played some Minecraft in 2019, I think I’m a bit burned out on the classic survival formula. So, maybe Minecraft Dungeons breathes new life into the franchise for me and maybe I might get back into classic Minecraft, who knows?

#7 – Shantae And The Seven Sirens (Switch) (Q1-Q2 2020)

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Now, this is interesting. I’m including a game on my list actually is already released. The game is released for iOS and macOS platforms. But I don’t have an iPhone nor do I have a MacBook or an iMac.

Thankfully, the game is being ported to the PC, Switch, PS4 and XBOX One early this year. I’m planning to pick up the Switch version since I’m playing more games on my Switch lately than on my PC. I felt that the joy-cons aren’t really the controller for me to play tight platformers like the amazing Shantae series. So, I might buy it for the PC and use my XBOX One controller.

Anyways, maybe this game will give me the drive to finish all the other unfinished Shantae games I have in my collection. I’m having so much fun with those games, yet I’m always getting distracted by other games and it’s getting quite annoying to let the Shantae games left unfinished since they are all quite enjoyable in my opinion.

#6 – Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe (PC) (TBA 2020)

Stanley Parable

I simply love adventure games. While I’m not that into walking simulators, The Stanley Parable really surprised me when I played it way back in 2013.

So, a few months ago, I learned that the developers of the game are making an upgrade and expanded version to be released on various platforms. While we know that the game is going to be released on the PC but we don’t know which consoles it’s also going to release on. The developers are looking into the possibilities.

At the moment, the developers state in their press kit that they are aiming to release the game before the summer of 2020. But, we shall see. Since the game was going to come out in 2019 but it has been delayed to 2020 to improve the quality of the game which I think is a good thing.

But, you can count on it that I’m going to write an article on the expanded version of the game as soon as it comes out. When you want to read more on the game, I highly recommend that you read the press kit on their website.

#5 – DooM 64 (Switch) (March 20th, 2020)

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March is going to be a busy gaming month for me. Games like Animal Crossing are getting released but also the remake of DooM64 on Nintendo Switch.

While I have played DooM countless times on the PC and various other platforms, I haven’t played the Nintendo64 port of the game. I have been interested in playing this port ever since I saw Derek Alexander’s video on it. And now I’ll be able in a little while.

So, I’m quite curious to see how different the game is compared to the PC version. Also, I’m curious to see if the developers made changes to the game or if it’s going to be sort of emulated on the Nintendo Switch. Only time will tell.

#4 – Gods and Monsters (Switch) (Febraury 2020)

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I can’t really explain why, but I love a great story about mythological beings. For that reason, my favorite game of the Age of Empires series is Age of Mythology. So, when I learned that Ubisoft is developing a game with that premise, well… I think it’s quite clear that I’m beyond excited about it.

So, yeah, a game that reminds me of a lot of Breath of the Wild and has a talented team behind it; I think this game is going to be quite good. Now, we will have to wait and see how good the game is until it releases. But, I’m going an eye on the game and I’m quite sure I’m going to pick it up as soon as I got the chance to do so.

#3 – Age of Empires IV (PC) (Q4 2020)

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On one hand, I wish that this game doesn’t release in 2020 but on the other hand, I wish it does.

Now, at the time of writing this article, the developers haven’t given a concrete release date yet. But in various press materials, I read that this game is going to release either late this year or early 2021. The only thing I hope is that they don’t rush the release of this game. I rather wait a few more months to have a more polished game than having the game quicker. Unless it’s a sort of beta version where people who pre-order the game can help test the game and help in the final polishing stage of development.

The Age of Empires series is one of my favorite series ever made. I have spent so many hours in the Age of Empires games, it’s crazy. While I’m no pro at the game, I enjoy playing a game from time to time. Earlier in the article, I even mentioned one of the spin-offs that’s my favorite game in the series, Age of Mythology.

Anyways, good luck Relic Entertainment with the development of the title. I know that is a lot of pressure on your shoulders to develop the next entry such a highly regarded series with such a devoted and dedicated fanbase, but we believe in you!

#2 – Death Come True (Switch) (TBA 2020)

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I’m beyond hyped for this game. This game is being directed by the writer of the Danganronpa series, Kazutaka Kodaka. Not only that, but the story also has some elements that remind me a lot about the Zero Escape series.

This game is an adventure game where the main character wakes up without him remembering anything. He is charged with committing various murders. So, together with his time leap abilities, he has to solve the mystery and find out the truth of these murders.

Now, there isn’t a lot of information out there on this game. Also, there isn’t any news if the game is coming to the west, but the fact that almost every tweet is tweeted twice; once in Japanese and once in English gives me a lot of hope.

So, I’m looking forward to this game quite a lot. It feels like a sort of spiritual successor to the Zero Escape games which are high up my personal top 10 games ever made list. I’m also avoiding any press releases on the game like the plague to avoid spoilers and being able to go as blind as possible in the game. And you may be sure that whenever I have the chance, I’m so going to write about this game.

Honorable mentions

Now, there are a few more games that I’m looking forward to but didn’t make the top 10 games list.

#1 – Death March Club (Switch) (TBA 2020)

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Are we for real now? The writer and director of Zero Escape and Ai The Somnium Files are going to release another game in 2020? I’ll be able to enjoy the work of Kotaro Uchikoshi again this year? And the game his big chances about coming to the west since it has an English website as well as a Japanese?

On top of that, this game is also going to be a death game like the Zero Escape games! Just reading the premise of this game is making me want to play this game even more. So, one group needs to sacrifice themselves in order for the other group to even stand a chance in death game.

Just reading the development story of this game on the fandom of this game, makes me even more interested in this game. The talent that’s involved with this game is just amazing. On one hand, I don’t want to read anything more about it so I can go in blind, but on the other hand, I want to know as much as I can to enjoy the game even more… What to do, what to do… Urgh. Oh well, now I have to patiently wait for an announcement of a release date and then wait until I’m able to get my hands on it.

Closing thoughts

So, 2020 is going to be jampacked with a ton of amazing titles. While I had a lot of trouble creating this list at first, in the end, I even had to create a section for honorable mentions.

I’m quite curious about which games I’ll be able to play this year and what I’ll think about it. Maybe I should look back at the end of the year to this list and compare my expectations to the actual released game.

So yeah, that were my top 10 games I’m looking forward to be playing in 2020. I’m curious if you agree or disagree with my list and which games you would have picked. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you had as much fun as I had 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!

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

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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 friend 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 friend 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!

Gamer’s Thoughts: The Meta Skill

I’m rarely able to beat a Pokémon game. Some bosses in RPG’s give me a lot of trouble. Battles in Europa Universalis 4 are extremely difficult for me. What is going on? I have been playing games for my whole life and I still have trouble with a lot of things in video games. Especially when it comes to the finer things in video games. The meta, the nitty and gritty of gaming. This article is mainly just a braindump of various things about metagaming. If you don’t really know what I’m talking about, this Wikipedia article and Urban Dictionary explains it quite well. Also, I’m curious, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion and/or your experiences. 

Git gud

So, do I need to git gud at playing games?  To be honest, I don’t think my gaming skills are lacking. I don’t mean to brag but I have beaten quite a lot of games.

I think that the biggest issue with my gaming skill is that I’m a jack of all trades. I have basic skills in almost every gaming genre due to my gaming collection but I haven’t specialized in any particular genre.

This lack of knowledge always comes back to bite me in the behind. For example, in Super Mario Odyssey, I’m unable to perform the Cappy Jump. Or, in Etrain Odyssey, my team build is either so unbalanced or too diverse. And when I encounter a powerful enemy, I always know that I’m in for either a restart or for a longer battle than usual.

The fact that a lot of people upload their gameplay onto YouTube or talk about various mad tricks on their blog is not helping. When I’m watching a gameplay video and somebody is performing a trick with ease that I’m unable to perform, I get jealous.

Now, certain things are quite difficult to explain as well. Take for example the combat in Europa Universalis 4. Whenever I’m a multiplayer match with MiseryLC, he is always talking about how he is building his army or which terrain he is using to fight the enemy. This gets extremely confusing to me extremely quickly.

An easier and more universal example is, try to explain how every jump works in a Mario game and how to perform it. It gets quite challenging to do that. I experienced this difficulty first hand when I was explaining how Lara Croft controls in the fan-made levels of the Level Editor. I had to rewrite that section at least 10 times before I was content with it.

Training

Let’s talk a bit more about one of the examples I gave in the introduction of this article. I haven’t been able to beat certain Pokémon games because my team isn’t diverse enough to beat the Elite Four easily.

I haven’t been able to beat the original Pokémon Red/Blue and Yellow, yet, I have been able to beat Pokémon Gold/Silver and Platinum, the sequels of that game. Granted, I abused the cloning glitch the first time, but the second and third time, I had beaten the game completely legit.

My issues with the meta gameplay come when my friends want to challenge me in a duel. Almost every time and also when I prepare myself on a duel, I get beaten. In various cases, I’m even unable to defeat one or two of their Pokémon.

This problem isn’t unique to Pokémon for me. There are several RPG games in my backlog where I’m just unable to progress due to me either having to grind or be unable to beat a certain boss. Take Atelier Rorona as an example, I haven’t been able to get any other ending because I rarely plan out my journey and I always have to race the clock to be able to meet the goal.

For this article, I sat down and thought about why I was having so much trouble with these kinds of mechanics. And I think I might have a reason. For of all, I have a lot of trouble remembering the weapons triangle. Let’s take Pokémon again as an example. The main battle mechanics are a rock/paper and scissor model. Rock beats scissors. Scissor beats paper and paper beats rock. But, there are more than three types of Pokémon. Take a look at this type chart from Reddit user u/ar-gee.

Now, this chart is quite handy. But then game throws an additional wrench in the works. The fact that some Pokémon has more than one type. This makes this chart even more complicated. And let’s not get started about the strength of certain moves and the special stats.

Whenever you level up in an RPG, you see a ton of stats rise of your characters. More often than not, I rarely pay attention to them. When I’m buying gear for my characters, I always make sure that the previous gear is stronger than their current gear. In turn-based RPG’s, this isn’t such a big issue. But in real-time strategy games like Rise of Nations, that’s where things get even more tricky.

During a match in any real-time strategy game, I always create a random army. A handful of soldiers, some cavalry and some archers. Rarely I know which balance to maintain. When my enemy attacks, I always send in my whole army. Instead of trying to think which units are the most effective to use.

Now, knowing the mechanics is one thing. Being able to train them is another thing. How do you train yourself in building a better Pokémon team or upgrading the right stats in an RPG? Or having a better army balance in a real-time strategy game. Barely any game gives you feedback where the weaknesses and/or strengths are in your team. Maybe one day…

Do you need to know?

I could keep giving example after example. But, do I need to know the meta mechanics of a game in order for me to enjoy it? Well, that really depends on one thing for me. If I’m able to enjoy myself and continue in the game.

I barely know anything about the meta gameplay of the Pokémon games yet, I’m able to beat certain mainline Pokémon RPG games. While I don’t have the strongest or the best team in the game, I’m able to finish the game.

On the other hand, you have to Remember Me. In this game, the combat is rather rhythmic and you have to perform a lot of button combos for the stronger attacks. Now, if there is one thing I’m not that good at, it’s keeping a rhythm. There is one boss I need to defeat in Remember Me, but because I’m always unable to preform the button prompts in time, I always lose. And yes, I have rage quit the game.

Of course, the meta is quite important. There are certain games where I’m even able to abuse the meta. Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine on the PC is one example. I know how to abuse certain mechanics to reach certain places that can’t be reached by certain means. Just take a look at the speedruns of the game to get an understanding of what I mean with how broken the roll and the chalk is in this game. If only I was able to perform these tricks with greater ease, I would compete in this speedrun category.

The obvious importance of the meta in games is for the people who play online and/or in a competition. I don’t think I have to explain that. Maybe that’s another reason for me. I barely play online or in a competition. It just doesn’t interest me that much. I prefer to play games on a casual level, in my own time.

Before I continue to ramble on about this topic, I think it’s time to finish this article. I might return on this topic but I would like to know what you, the readers think. If I revisit this topic, what do you want me to talk about? Am I alone with these “issues” or are there other people? Do you need to “git gud”?

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this subject for now. 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.

Award Time – Thanks LaterLevels

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Today I got another blog award from LaterLevels. One of those awards that bloggers give each other to recognize each other for their work. If you want to read the article yourself to get more information, you should take a look at Kim’s post. This award is inspired by Michelle from A Geek Girl’s Guide. So, let’s get into answering some questions. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your answers and/or opinions on the article down below. 

Thanks, time

But before I reply to the questions, I have to thank Kim from LaterLevels of course for the recognition. She is a very kind-hearted blogger who I look up to very much. Her content sometimes inspires mine. She is a great person and you really should check out her work on the LaterLevels website.

So the way that this award works is that Michelle has five standard questions everybody needs to answer and 5 questions need to be made up.

Question time

Why did you start your blog?

Well, I have told this story many times before on my blog. The TL;DR is, since childhood I have been into writing. While I have a rather small family, we do have a TON of family friends. And to avoid me telling the same story a million times at family gatherings, I have decided to write them and publish them. Not too long after, I started writing game reviews and that’s how the ball got rolling.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

My favorite articles to write are articles about indie games I have played. The ones I enjoy the most are the ones where the developer asks me for feedback and improvements. I just love helping small developers who have a small budget anyways, so some help in QA is welcome for them.

What have you learned since you started your blog?

This is a tricky question. I have been blogging for close to … yes, 10 years. So, to be able to pinpoint something specific that I learned about due to blogging. I think I mostly found my niche and expanded my skills.

If I have to say something, I think I fine-tuned my writing and reviewing style. If you compare my current writing and style to my earlier writing, you will see a world of difference.

What do you love about being a geeky blog?

Simple, I love geeky things… so being able to write about geeky things is just amazing.

Where would you like to see your blog go in the future?

Actually, if I could dream, I would love to have some side income with my blog in the future. But I still want it to stay a hobby. In an earlier article, I have talked about how I’m afraid that if I would be blogging as a job, I would burn out. And burning out on one of my passions… No, thank you.

And now, LaterLevels has some questions for us.

How would you describe yourself if you could only use gaming terms?

I’m going to be sort of cheating here but I’m an INFJ or the advocate personality. And yes, these are gaming terms. D&D terms actually.

Who would be the worst video game character to be stuck in a lift with?

Zero III, just play Virtue’s Last Reward and you will get it.

If a game based on your life was made, what would be the genre and title?

Well, an adventure/action RPG. Mostly adventure RPG. The things that happen in my life are quite special.

Currently, I’m in the wordsmith and merchant class. I have a lot of points in the tech skill.

Which three video game items would you take into the zombie apocalypse?

A ton of revives, Lara Croft’s classic pistols (those with unlimited ammo) and one of those fancy luxurious airships from the game you image.

Which gaming character should we elect as our next prime minister and why?

Booker Dewitt, and telling why would spoil Bioshock Infinite. So, yeaaaaahhhhh…

Questions

So, before I list the people who I like to nominate, I have five questions of my own. So, are you ready? Here we go.

  • If your life has a soundtrack, which genre would it be?
  • You are a parent of a video game character, who would you pick as your child and why?
  • Which video game character you don’t want to meet in a mental asylum?
  • Would you rather go to Silent Hill or Raccoon City?
  • If real life had video game cheats, which ONE cheat would you like to have and why?

So now, who are my vic— fellow bloggers I nominate for an easy Q and A— I mean an award.

So, with that said, I’m looking forward to the replies. Thank you to LaterLevels for the nomination. And tomorrow, I’ll publish another article and that will be about a game. But for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Gamer’s Thoughts: Difficulty in games

downloadToday I want to talk about something extremely objective subjective. Something not a lot of people agrees on. That subject is the difficulty in games. This isn’t unique to video gaming since other entertainment mediums can be difficult to understand, analyze or appreciate. But, the difficulty is one of the most important factors in gaming. In order to write this article, I have asked in various groups what their opinions about game difficulty are. Are games today too easy? Are difficult games fun to play? Are old school games too difficult? I got some extremely interesting replies. Now, if you have your own opinion on this subject, I would love to talk about it in the comment section down below. Of course, keep it civil down there, everybody has a different opinion.

My own views on game difficulty.

Keep in mind that the following thoughts and opinions are mine. It’s quite possible that you think in a different way due to your different experiences in gaming and/or life. Like I said in the introduction of this article, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and opinions on the content of this article and or the subject. With that out of the way, on with the show.

Now, with such a broad subject as game difficulty, it’s quite tricky to give a full opinion. In the introduction alone, I gave a few different angles I could take this article. In addition to that, this subject is extremely subjective. For example, I’m not rhythmic at all. When I talk about the DS, a lot of people talk about games like Elite Beat Agents, a rhythm game. I have to admit that I find this game too difficult.

pokemon goFirst of all, let’s talk about a sentence you often hear us older players say: “Games today are too easy.” Are they really too easy? Well, they became easier in one way but more challenging too. For example, take the Pokémon games. When Game Freak remade the 3rd generation on Nintendo 3DS, one of the biggest complaints was that the game was too easy. And yes, I finished the game without losing 3 battles during the whole playthrough and 2 of these loses were because I wasn’t paying attention during the battle and forgot to heal my Pokémon and the other loss was because I forgot that grass was weak to flying and I most had grass Pokémon in a flying gym. Whoops.

photoNow, why do I think that games can be too easy nowadays? That’s has two reasons. The first reason is that games just got more accessible. Because of the growth of the hobby, a lot more people play video games. So, there need to be ways for every style of player to play video games, even the youngest ones. Thankfully, you have difficulty options that can provide the other players with some additional challenges. Sadly enough, not all games do this. In most games, the difficulty settings have a small explanation of what each level means.

And this brings me to the second reason why games are too easy nowadays and that’s a skill. I have been playing games since I was a young lad. I started playing games give or take 21 years ago. During these years, I have played a TON of games and got a TON of different experiences. That means I have seen quite a lot and the chances of a puzzle stumping me or a fight being too difficult to get slimmer with every game I play.

Is this a bad thing? It depends on what you are looking for in a game. Do you want a game that challenges your strategizing skills or the ability to solve puzzles than the lower difficulty can be a problem? If you are looking for a game to play to pass the time, in that case, the drop in difficulty shouldn’t matter that much.

resident evil 4It’s always a difficult balancing act in how difficult you make your game. Since if a game is too difficult, people will stop playing. A great example for me is Resident Evil 4. There is a section in that game where during an already hectic fight, two chainsaw enemies spawn that kill you instantly when they come to close. There were three times that one of those enemies actually spawned right behind me, giving me no time nor room to turn around and defend myself. These moments I actually rage quitted the game. Another example is Atelier Rorona. The amount of depth in this game is just insane. You have to think about so many things like the freshness of ingredients, how long it takes to collect them and get them home, the amount of MP you have to fight and or craft… It was quite challenging to balance all of these things.

EuropaUniversalisIV_Packshot_editedThat brings me to the question, what makes a game difficult and how difficult should a game be? It speaks for itself that how more layers of gameplay and mechanics you add, the more difficult a game becomes. Take Europa Universalis 4 for example. In this grand strategy game, there are so many mechanics; it’s not even funny anymore. The complexity of a game can turn some people off. I would love to play Europe Universalis 4 with more people but most of my friends don’t understand how the game works or get too scared when they hear how many things they need to think about while playing the game.

In a way, the difficulty of a game can limit your audience. I would love to play a game like Cuphead, but from what I have seen and tried, the game is a bit too much for me. I don’t really like games that depend on memorization or trying over and over again. This makes the game boring and repetitive in my eyes. For me personally, I want to have a great time while I’m playing games. I want some parts to be challenging and test the skills I learned during the game and I want some sections to be easy to play through so I can relax and enjoy the game.

SI_NDS_NewSuperMarioBrosDS_image1600wA game series that nailed difficulty, in my opinion, is the Super Mario World games. In these games, you learn by playing the game. You might have heard this explanation in various other videos or articles but if you haven’t heard it yet, allow me to explain. At the start of the level, you are able to experiment with a new level mechanic in a safe area. One where you can easily avoid the enemies and you don’t have death pits. And the further you go in the level, the more challenging the mechanic or level gimmick becomes. And during the later and last stages of the game, all the challenges are combined into one big final set of levels that test your skills and what you learned through the game. In a way, you can compare it to school. The early levels and sections are the classes while the later levels and finale of the game are the final test/exam.

Now, should games become “NES-hard” again? To be honest, I think we shouldn’t do that. In the current gaming climate, we get a lot of games inspired by the more challenging nature of older games and we also get easier games. That means we have options. Now, we’re all old school games difficult? Were games more challenging in the past? Well, that’s a tricky question to answer.

Tomb Raider LegendFor example, I grew up with the original Tomb Raider games. When I play these games today, I don’t have a lot of trouble with jumping from platform to platform. Of course, due to the limitations of the systems at the time, it wasn’t always clear to which ledge you should jump and how you should make that jump. In more recent games, a better visual presentation helps out with that problem a lot. This “issue” became clear when I did the Tomb Raider project. Some people in that collaboration had never played an old school Tomb Raider game and gave it a try for the first time. And because they were more used to the newer style of the series or the newer style of play in more modern games, they had trouble during the game.

Something I often got during my search for writers in the Tomb Raider project was: “Also the old Tomb Raider games that aged poorly?” or something similar. I completely agree that the original Tomb Raider games aged poorly. The newer Tomb Raider games, and not per se the more modern games, play better because the developers improved their craft and learned a lot from developing the previous entries in the series.

I don’t find all retro-inspired games that difficult. I was able to beat some without much trouble like Blossom Tales or Retro Game Challenge. While I did had some trouble in Shovel Knight because I haven’t played a lot of games similar to that.

When I was researching and brainstorming for this article, I came to the conclusion that there are 4 types of difficulty in my eyes.

The first type is the intended difficulty. This is planned by the developers to challenge you during the game. Think about a Zelda dungeon where you get a new item in a dungeon and you have to learn to use it or remember the places where you were unable to progress and needed to use the item.

The second type is an unintended difficulty. This was an unplanned difficulty due to bugs, randomness (like RNG or random generation) or just plain bad game design. Or it can be because of things like certain mechanics. For example, a lot of people complained when Super Mario 64 DS came out. While it’s a good remake, the controls weren’t loved by various reviews because the original game was designed with a joystick in mind while the DS didn’t have a joystick.

The first two types can be mixed with the other two types.

The third type is a fair difficulty. With this I mean, the game provides you with a challenging and rewarding experience. Like, you finally figured out how to beat that one puzzle or beat that one boss.

The fourth type of difficulty is, you guessed it, unfair difficulty. Now, this can be because of bad and or lazy game design but this can also be a huge spike in difficulty. A great example is Suikoden Tierkreis for me. Overall, the game is somewhat easy. If you don’t skip too many battles and pay attention to what you are doing, the game isn’t all too challenging. I rarely to never saw the game over screen. Until I came to the final boss. This annoying battle gets such a difficulty spike that made me not fully finish the game and actually look up the ending online. Now, while writing this article, I actually restarted playing the game and I’m hell-bent in finally beating the game this time.

The more difficulty of type 2 and 4 you have, the worse it becomes for your game. One time a developer asked me to review an Android game. In this game, you had to feed various foods to some customers. The issue was, all of the dishes were based on Asian dishes and I’m European. I barely know anything about Asian cuisine. The unfair difficulty in this game is that almost nothing was explained in the game about the foods themselves. So, I was unable to figure out which food was what, so it became a guessing game.

Another example of unfair difficulty is more recent. A developer asked me to review a Switch game they just released. The game is a twin-stick shooter and in the shooting tutorial, there were two spawners in the room that spawned so many enemies so quickly, it became overwhelming. You shouldn’t put so many enemies in the first level of your game while the player is still learning the basic mechanics of the game. That’s unfair.

headerDoes a game like Dark Souls have unfair difficulty? Well no, the game is quite balanced in my opinion. There is a lot of risk and reward gameplay, the punishment is just a bit too harsh in my opinion. But the game becomes beatable when you learn the finer details of the game and get used to the inner workings of the game.

The line and difference between the four types are really thin and make it still personal. Speaking of personal, some people talk proudly when they were able to beat a certain game on the highest difficulty. While that is impressive, you shouldn’t look down upon people having trouble on the lower difficulties. While my gaming buddy MiseryLC can beat the AI in Europe Universalis IV on hard, I feel that the normal difficulty provides just enough challenge for me.

I think it would be a great development if all games have difficulty sliders. The more you can adjust the difficulty, the better. Something I really loved in the Etrian Odyssey series is that you can change the difficulty setting when you are in the town without any other punishments. This is great because when I was unable to beat a certain boss and almost stopped playing, I was able to lower the difficulty a bit so I was able to beat the boss and move on. After I had beaten the boss, I set the difficulty back on normal. This is a perfect system since people can choose how easy or hard you want the game to be.

Now, I have said quite a lot about the topic now. To avoid this article becoming a bit too long or having too much rambling, I think it’s time to let some of my friends talk. I want to thank everybody for their input since they helped me quite a lot while putting my thoughts together for this article.

How others think about difficulty.

Now, I asked around on various groups on Discord and Facebook on their opinions on game difficulty. Here is what they have to say. Note, some quotes I translated from Dutch to English. Some quotes had minor edits since sometimes contained an answer to another topic in the conversation or something in those lines.

The following quotes come from a Facebook group where Belgian retro game collectors gather.

Ward: “Some games are pretty challenging due to their difficulty like Slain and Cuphead. But other games hold your hand, but that doesn’t always take away from the fun of the game. It really depends on the game and how enjoyable the story is.”

Hakim: “Sometimes a too difficult game can be really frustrating. And out of this frustration, the game can go on my shelves to be never played again.”

Kenny: “Personally, I think that the player should have a choice how difficult the game should be. Some games I play personally for the story and not for an extreme challenge.”

Mayu: “For me, a game can never be too difficult. I’ll play until the end as long as the difficulty, challenge, story and such are fun. It already happened that I was disappointed when I bought a new game and I finished it without issue. The solution for this is lately, collection or completion rewards. Some of them are really letdowns. In the past, gaming was a very niche hobby. When a game was too difficult, you just had to try and try again. But, now that gaming isn’t a niche hobby anymore, the difficult games don’t sell that well anymore. And with companies trying to make as much profit as possible…”

Koen: “Making a game extremely difficult is no issue for me. As long as all the elements of the game are fun, it doesn’t matter to me. I really enjoy the rewarding feeling of finally being able to beat a game at the highest difficult setting after trying on it for weeks and seeing the real/true ending. But, when the story is garbage and I have to replay the game on a harder difficulty setting, I won’t be spending my time on a new playthrough.”

Niels: “As long as a game stays fair, it’s worth my time. Nowadays, there are a lot of games that are too easy for everybody to play. From endless tutorial sections to special power-ups when you die a lot and sometimes even a skip button, these are just a few things that you find more and more in modern games. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they are optional or are disabled by higher difficulty settings. Something I really want to stress, a game that is too difficult thanks to bad enemy placement, terrible controls or bad decisions is a bad game.”

Xavier: “I prefer easier games. There are a lot of games that are quite enjoyable to play. It doesn’t matter to me if games are shorter, I usually buy them at a lower price after they have been released for a while. It’s better then having to play a game where you have to retry a section 20 times to finish it.”

Dennis: “I usually start a game on normal mode. Depending on my experience, I raise or lower the difficulty. So, this means that I play some games on easy, some on normal and some on the hardest difficulty. I don’t really enjoy games where you respawn a thousand times before you can continue and especially when you have the same issue 10 minutes later in the next section. If I enjoyed the game enough, I might replay it on a higher difficulty setting. Most of the games interest me for somewhere between 10 to 20 hours. But, this is absolutely not the case for me with Final Fantasy games.”

The following opinions are from fellow bloggers or friends in the blogging world.

Aiphafemaie: “A couple thoughts – I think games felt more difficult in the past because you had to rely more on yourself to figure out how to pass levels or quests. Or printing out walkthroughs from GameFaqs.com lmao.  Now when you’re stuck, you can just to YouTube and see how it’s done. I don’t think games were more difficult in the past, but “difficult” is a subjective word.  Today’s games do have varying difficulty modes, in comparison to the past. Before most games could only be played on default.”

TwoTall4uFool: “I think there was a lot of trial and error with games back in the 80’s and 90’s. Even in the 2000’s. Aiphafemaie you bring up a great point about GameFaqs but there are some games out there that I would’ve never beaten if it wasn’t for Game Genie/Gameshark. Today in games you have tutorials and of course there is YouTube. And even with plug and plays such as the SNES Classic you can rewind and try a part again if you fail. And plus suspend you point. So emulating older games have made them easier ….. sort of.”

ReaperInteractive: “I agree with @aiphafemaie . Games in the past had no clear instructions or clear, “Go here to pass to the next level.” Games nowadays are a lot more direct and I feel that developers intentianally make these instructions extremely clear as to make the game as playable and prevent people from giving up midway. A little more on the note. There have been games where the instructions were so unclear that I literally had no clue what to do and ended up giving up. Another reason I feel that games nowadays are a lot easier is because we’ve played the same basic mechanic over and over again as to games in the past, there were hundreds of different mechanics. Most games nowadays can be grouped into a couple dozen genres with the same mechanic and controls. Contrary to this, I feel that games in the past are composed of hundreds of different genres, some completely new to the people hence why I feel that why games in the past are a tad more difficult than those of our age.”

The Well Red Mage: “I think that games can still pretty hard now, some of them, but there are new varieties of games now. There are brutal platformers as a subgenre now that are built on difficulty, but then there are also walking simulators and interactive movies now that eschew difficulty almost entirely. I think some would say that the difficulty of retro games was such that it was unfair, but I think that the lives systems and the memorization of patterns (two very retro-centric ideas of difficulty) are perfectly valid; we maybe just don’t have the toleration for them that we used to. Those games were still demanding something of the player (memory or timing). So I think this is a conversation that benefits from specifics like specific games and specific features in those games that bring difficulty into the equation (memorization, level design, limited options or limited chances to complete a challenge, longer periods without save features, increasing speed, item management, enemy AI… all those things are specific features that games then and now used and use to create difficulty).”

The Badly Backlogged Mage/MrBacklog: “I think the obvious-but-unhelpful answer is “as difficult as they need to be to convey the desired experience”. Dark Souls, the Walking Dead and Mario Party are all different in terms of difficulty because they’re going for different experiences.”

OverThinkerY: “I think there are different ways of adding difficulty – Backlogged makes a good point about those games being difficult in different ways as part of the experience. There’s perhaps the most classic sort of difficulty, which is reacting and executing the right series of inputs quickly enough to proceed, and then there are things more dependent on memory, ingenuity, or sheer emotional fortitude. I think there are more examples these days of different sorts of difficulty other than simply pressing buttons accurately, which might be down to better tech or just natural progression, but it enables different kinds of experiences to be made effective in that way.”

Mail Order Ninja Mage/Daniel Flatt: “Difficulty is the hardest thing to get right in video games. If you push back too hard you lose all but your most dedicated player, if you don’t present any challenge then moderately skilled players become bored. Like everyone said above it is drastically different depending on the game and furthermore the individual playing.

That being said games aren’t necessarily easier than they were before, but they have become better at not wasting our time. Games previously were artificially hard, first because checkpoints and saves weren’t a thing, and then because many NES games are a handful of hours long without constantly starting over. They had to have that difficulty to make the game worth it, can’t have Billy coming to you after an hour and asking for a new game. I dare anyone to play B side levels of Celeste and say games are easier, but the difference is you don’t have to play through the same 30 minutes over and over to finally get through something and die 20 seconds later to start all over.

The best games have difficulty determined by the player, Nintendo excels at this, but one of the best examples is Ori. It has a function where you basically create your own checkpoints or don’t, depending on your preference. It could be brutally hard, but if I get to try again right away for a certain section it wasn’t wasting my time making me play the same section a hundred times.”

Now, as you can read, the opinions are extremely diverse when it comes to difficulty. This brainstorm was extremely interesting to do. I honestly think that I’ll return to this topic in the future. Before I close this article, I want to point you to an article created by Rob “I Played The Game” Covell that he wrote in 2017 about the same subject. “A Difficult Conversation”.

Closing off

Like I said in the previous paragraph, the conversation of how difficult a game could be or if games are too easy nowadays gets quite diverse opinions. While this topic could be discussed for hours and the opinions will go in various directions, I think I’ll close off this article here. I’m quite curious about what everybody thinks. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic at a later date.

If you have written or talked about this subject in the past or know a great resource like another article or video, feel free to send me a message with the link. Maybe I’ll include it in the next article. And with that said, I think I’ll really end off this article. Thank you, everybody, for helping me put this article together. It was a blast. 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.