Tag Archives: Television

First Impression: The Great Perhaps (Switch) ~ I Dunno, Time Travel Perhaps?

H2x1_NSwitchDS_TheGreatPerhaps_image1600wDrageus pageSteam pageDevelopers websiteNintendo microsite

Today I want to talk about a game that asks a question. The question of how the world would look like after a big disaster occurred. But, more on the story later in the article. To give full disclosure, I got a review code for this game from the developers of the Switch port Drageus Games for this review. As usual, Drageus Games asked that I gave my 100% true honest opinion. So, that’s what you are going to read in this article. Now, Drageus Games didn’t publish the PC-version. That’s been handled by Daedalic Entertainment of Deponia fame. Anyways, let’s dive right into this adventure game and look at what it has to offer. Should you play or skip this game? Let’s find out. One thing before I continue, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

I dunno, time travel perhaps?

ss_80c8f6807052540764e0c21b6a70cd8f9f84b89b.1920x1080I already started to explain the story in the introduction paragraph of this article. In this game, Earth is destroyed by natural disasters. You play an astronaut that was in his spaceship during the disasters. Now, when you descent back to Earth, you find a lamp that aids you to see the past and interact with it. Together with this lamp, you set out on a journey to find your family and explore what’s left of the Earth.

While the setup of the story is completely different, the story reminded me of another game a bit. In Time Hollow, you also have an object that allows you to interact with the past and you go through a very emotional adventure. But, that’s beside the point, I just wanted to mention that game if the premise of this game interests you, there are also other games with that sort of story nature.

The writing in this game is decent. From what I have seen so far, there was nothing that stuck out as really good or really bad to me. The only thing that stuck a bit out with the mediocre voice acting. I really can’t put my finger onto why but I felt that some lines were either a bit forced or strangely delivered. Maybe it’s the writing itself or the pacing, I can’t tell why exactly but the voice acting isn’t the strongest point in this game.

All in all, this game isn’t that long. This game can take you 2-4 hours of playtime. Currently, I’m in the middle of the game. You do explore various locations from a metro station to a zoo. The thing is, this game isn’t 3D, so it’s quite linear. But, I’ll go more in-depth on this when I’m going to talk about the gameplay.

Trial and error

Screenshot_19

This game uses an auto-save system. I’m so glad that it does since this game can be quite tricky at the beginning. One of the first areas you visit is a metro station and I have to say that it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience I had.

I think that two things made my experience frustrating that can be fixed or addressed in an update. The first thing is that the icons for interaction or way too small. The size is bordering on too small when you play the game in handheld mode but when I was playing in the dock, I had to sit a bit too close to my TV for comfort to see the interaction icons.

The 2nd issue was the biggest cause of my frustration. I wasn’t able to get used to the delay of the time traveling. If you travel to the past in the metro station, you have to look out for a train. Your AI-companion does warn you when the train is approaching, but you do still have some time to switch back to the present. I always started to switch back when I visually saw the train approaching. To save yourself some frustration, don’t do that. The delay is long enough so that the train will always hit you and kill you. Keep that delay in mind.

Speaking about that delay, there is a mechanic that I would have implemented quite differently. That is the time you can stay in the past. After a while, a sound effect starts playing to let you know that your time is almost up and that you are going to switch back to the present. The issue I have with this is that the only sign you get is done with audio. Not everybody can hear the audio or is focused on audio-cues. I think it would have been greater if some sort of animation or effect started displaying when the audio starts. You could argue that the flashing of the lamp is a visual clue, I give you that. But, you do have, give or take, a second before it switches back when the final flash happened.

Now, how does this game play? It’s almost like a puzzle-platformer without the platforming. By using your lamp, you have to solve puzzles to go back to the past and the present. Compare the idea a bit with the Harp of Ages from The Legend of Zelda – Oracle of Ages.

There is some trial and error involved in this game. Because there is no real hint system in this game, you do have to try everything you can think of. Unlike the Steam version that has achievements that can help you a bit to steer you in the right direction, you are on your own in this game. You don’t even have some sort of map system or “to do” list that can help you remember what your next objective is. So, this game is a bit old school in that regard. Now, there are achievements in this game but they are less present than in the Steam version.

While it’s easy to die in the present, the respawn time is rather quick. So, if you failed to solve a puzzle, don’t worry, it doesn’t take long in order for you to give it another go. And because the game autosaves frequently, you don’t have to worry about losing too much progress.

Comic book?

perhaps1-800x400

Visually, this game is pretty amazing. Everything has this hand-drawn look to it and is amazingly detailed. Sadly, there were a few moments where I felt that some details were either missed or not clear enough. For example, in the metro station, you can’t pass through a door because it’s damaged. But, the visual damage on the door is only a few scratches on the door itself. That’s like saying that a bush blocks your way and you are unable to walk around it… Isn’t that right Pokémon?

The visual presentation is like you are playing through a comic book. It’s quite clear that a lot of work and thought has been put into the visuals and the backgrounds of this game. I have to compliment the artists on their work since they did an amazing job.

The animations on the other hand aren’t bad but aren’t good either. The jump animation could have been better for example. The character is a bit too static but strangely, a part of the suit does move.

The audiovisual presentation of this game is decent. The music fits the theming and atmosphere of the game like a glove. Now, there isn’t an option to adjust the volume of the music and/or sound effects in the menu. You can only change the master volume in the options.

When digging around in the options menu, I found out that the voice acting can also be in Russian. Apart from that, you can also choose to change the language of the subtitles and the menu system. I find it very strange that you can also change the language of only the menu system honestly. I think that it would have made more sense to merge the subtitle and the menu language option.

So, the UI of this game. Earlier I talked about the too-small interaction icons. The rest of the UI is good apart from some minor things I would have changed. One thing is that I think that the word “Areas” or “Sections” would have fitted better in the main menu instead of “Levels”.

And the second thing I would have changed is that I think that it would have been great that next to “Continue” the name of the area you were in appeared. But this brings me to another point. Why does this game have only one save slot? I mean, this genre screams to have multiple save slots. Especially when you share your Switch! Image that your sibling finished the game and you had to find the point where you were at.

Something that I personally find a huge negative in this game is the lack of an help section. Just image that you take a break from playing this game and you want to pick it back up. That means that you have to relearn all the different mechanics and controls of this game from scrath. That’s a pain in my opinion. It’s just a small feature that can save a lot of people headaches.

Now, I haven’t spoken about the controls. They are quite resposive and I didn’t had a lot of problems with them. Apart from the delay of switching back and forth between the past and the present. But, is this a problem with the controls or the gameplay? You can give arguments for both options.

When I’m reading back this article, you might think that this game isn’t the best or is mediocre. Well, that isn’t 100% true. This game is quite charming and you feel that a lot of care has been put into this game. But, it’s quite rough around the edges. If you are looking for a really polished game, I have to say that you should look elsewhere. If you don’t mind a game that’s a bit rough around the edges, I think this game can be for you.

If you enjoy adventure, point-and-click and/or puzzle games, this game might be an enjoyable time waster. With some additional polish, this game can get even better and then I wouldn’t say that it’s rough around the edges anymore.

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

Preview: Saint Kotar: The Yellow Mask (PC – Steam) ~ It’s A Holy Sin.

capsule_616x353Developers’ siteFull game websiteKickstarterSteam page for the prologue

Ah, point-and-click adventure games. One of the best game genres that there is in my opinion. I do love myself a good point-and-click game. Now, you could start a debate if games like Ace Attorney, Corpse Party, Zero Escape series are also point-and-click games. I know that they are visual novels but I find that there is a lot of overlap between both genres. But that might be an interesting topic for a gamer’s thoughts article. Now, today I want to talk about a game that Red Martyr Entertainment is developing called Saint Kotar. They have launched a Kickstarter to raise more money to develop this game even further, you can find the link to the Kickstarter at the start of this article and it’s ending this Friday, July 24th, 2020. So, if this game seems interesting to you, feel free to take a look at that page. But, how would you know if this game is interesting? Well, by playing the free prologue on Steam of course. In this article, you will find my 100% honest opinion on this prologue, as per request of the developer. So, let’s dive right into it. And per usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the article in the comment section down below. 

Reviewed version: v1.3.

It’s A Holy Sin

fisherman_wallpaper.jpgWhen you start a new game in this prologue, you get introduced to the main character of this game. Just by the opening quote, you know which themes this game will tackle. The game is advertised as a dark psychological horror adventure game talking about religion. The story starts in what looks like a hellscape or limbo. The main character feels that he is being punished for something is he is unable to remember.

I don’t want to give a more in depth explanation of the story in this game since the demo is 2 hours long and otherwise I might easily get into spoiler territory. But, if you are interested in games about the exploration of trauma and sins, I think that this game won’t dissapoint you.

The whole prologue is completely voice acted in English and only English. Now, the game got translated to German, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Brazilian, Czech, Spanish, and Chinese. Anything but the voice acting is translated and localized. Since I understand a small bit of German, I replayed the first section with German subtitles and I have to say that I’m quite impressed with the quality of it.

Before I continue to talk about writing, I want to talk about the voice acting. The voice acting is quite well done but it’s on the edge of overacting in my opinion. I can’t really put my finger on it but I felt that some lines weren’t natural enough. But, the fact that I have played in several theatre productions might have something to do with it, since I can get quite nitpicky in details when it comes to delivering lines.

The writing in this game is quite impressive. It strikes that fine balance of creepy and being realistic. Now, something that destroys the immersion a bit for me is the animations, but I’ll talk more about that in a later part of the article. To avoid spoilers, I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk more about the writing. But before we go on to the next section, I do want to talk about this. The pacing is sometimes a bit off. Sometimes there is some downtime where the game looks like it’s soft locked and doing nothing. Most likely, it’s loading the next voice line in the background, but it feels a bit off.

Where is my Bible?

20200719134642_1The artwork in this game is amazing. The enviroments this game takes place in are amazingly detailed and feel realistic. The only complaint I have about the visuals is that it’s clear that somethings stick out a bit. The best example I can give are the charater models. Now, they aren’t bad but 3D characters on heavily detailed 2D image? It somehow doesn’t fit in my mind.

One advise I can give you is to set the brightness to max. There are some sections of the game I thought the game froze but it was playing an animation. That reminds me, I found it quite strange that when the screen went black to load the next scene in, there was no animation on the screen. It was just black with the sound and music where playing in the background. Anyhow, when I set the brightness to the maximum, I was able to see more of the game and some parts didn’t felt too hidden anymore.

When talking about the visuals, we also have to talk about the animations. Now, remember that I said earlier that it broke the immersion for me? Well, let me explain why. In the prologue, the animations feel unfinished and they are inconsistent. Let me give an example of them being inconsistent. In this prologue, you play as different characters. During the game, you meet Nikolay. Nikolay’s mouth moves when he speaks yet for some strange reason, the mouth of the main character doesn’t move while he is speaking. Maybe I’m overanalysing this since it’s quite possible that most of it are inner thoughts, then again, the mouth doesn’t move during dialogue…

What do I mean by unfinished animations? Well, it feels like there is so much more that can be done by adding more animations to the characters while interacting with things. The characters feel a bit to static, locked in their idle frames of animation. Now, I’m not saying that the animations are horrible or bad. Far from it. But, when I’m saying is that they aren’t there quite yet. Just let the character move a bit more and the game will feel a lot better.

It’s getting there

cottage_exterior_wallpaperThere is some minor pixel hunting in this game. This could have been avoided when sometimes hotspots just sprakled or something in that nature. Maybe this could be a difficulty option like a lot of hidden object games do. This could help people when they feel stuck. And then I looked at the “Help” section of the pause menu. This feature is in the game, but it gets never explained. Just press the space bar.

Also, I found it quite strange that when you started the credits from the main menu, you get a message as if you had beaten the game. This is quite strange, since I just wanted to check out how big the team as research for this article.

Overall, this game is really getting there. There are a lot of detailing and polishing work to be done. Thankfully, the developers are quite responisive and open for feedback so I think the full game will be a lot better compared to the prologue. But don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not saying that the prologue isn’t good. I had an amazing time while playing this game.

I’m very impressed by the quality of this game and I’m crossing my fingers for the Kickstarter to reach it’s goal. Since I honestly believe in this team and from what I can see in this prologue, I think this game is going to become quite interesting. So, that’s why I might come over quite harsh in this article in certain sections. I just want to see the game get even better then it currently is. Sometimes, it are just some small details that need to be changed.

For example, the color of the buttons in the main menu are too similar to the colors in the background. The “Options” and “Exit Game” buttons almost blend in with the background for me. Speaking about the UI, it’s extremely well done but it would be bettter if some sound effects would play and if the “ESC” key also exited you out of menu’s.

Speaking about sound effects, they are pretty good. They set the tone and atmosphere quite well. Including the soundtrack of this game, it sells the whole atmosphere without a lot of issues.

In conclusion, this game is pretty decent. I’m seriously impressed with the quality of the game so far. If this is the baseline level of quality that the team can deliver, I’m very excited to see the full game in the future. The game is scheduled to be released in the summer of next year when you look at the deliverly time on the Kickstarter page.

Thank you Red Martyr for this oppertunity and introducing me to this project. I’m going to follow it for sure and whenever the full game is released, you may be sure that I’m going to write an article about it. So yeah, if you are into point-and-click games, horror games and/or adventure games…. I can recommend this game.

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

NekoJonez’s May 2020 Update

NekoJonez176p_(long)Hello, there my dear readers. I think it’s high time to write an update article to talk about a few things that are going on behind the scenes. Since there is a lot going in the world and in my personal life. This update article might be brief, but I hope you will still enjoy reading it. Anyways, let’s get right into the news!

The amazing GIF has been made by the amazing Gao Li.

Personal life

So, due to COVID-19, the world is in a strange place. Currently, in Belgium (where I live), we are in the process of exiting our lockdown. The schools are going to somewhat resume, the companies will restart their production, stores will reopen… Of course, step by step.

During the lockdown, I didn’t sit still at all. I’m working on a ton of projects and putting in a lot of effort into my job. Speaking of my job, something amazing happened! My dream job since childhood has always been working in a school. When I started to develop my passion for computer science, I wanted to become an IT guy at a big school. In December 2019,  I started working in a school in Ghent parttime as my dream job. But, after the week after the Easter Holidays, something magical happened. I got that job full time now. So, yes. I’m now working full time in my dream job. I can’t honestly believe this happened to me. Thank you!

So, I have been spending quite a lot of time on my job. Since a ton of schools now switched to online classes, the IT staff has a ton of support work. There were days that I helped teachers from the early morning until late in the evening. That means that I sometimes didn’t have time to prepare and/or write an article for my blog.

On top of that, my theatre group started something quite unique. We are acting out our version of a popular TV game show here in Belgium called “De Slimste Mens Ter Wereld”. Freely translated, this means: “The Smartest Person on the Planet”. Sadly enough, there isn’t an English article to be found of the show, so I can’t link it to explain the whole format.

Now, the original person who was editing the whole show wasn’t able to continue working on the show. That means that somebody else has to take over. And I’m one of the only people in the group who has the skills and the expertise to actually edit the show. The show airs on Monday – Wednesday, and Fridays. Now, I work to give or take 10 – 15 hours on each episode. So guess what that means, even less time to prepare articles for my blog.

On top of that, there are a few things happening in my private life that makes my life even busier. Things like me studying a new programming language and developing a tool for some friends of mine. So yeah, I haven’t sat still these days.

Blog news

Now, besides working on all the personal projects mentioned above, there are a few things that are blog related as well. Currently, I have 3 developer requests in the pipeline and I have some friends who wanted me to look at their game to help them out in the next projects.

I’m going to try to write these developer requests first before I write about any other games. That means I have to remake my whole schedule. But that isn’t such a big deal.

Currently, I want to focus my time and energy on my job and my theatre group. I think that this isn’t going to come as a surprise, but I think that May might be a big light on articles. Since I’m working on so many things, I don’t always have the time, creativity, energy, and/or motivation to work on an article each week. With a bit of luck, I might be able to publish two articles this month instead of four, but we shall see. It’ll all depend on the time I can put into my blog and prepare myself. Honestly, I prefer delaying an article instead of rushing one out of the door.

To give you an idea to show you how busy I have been, I have published over 500 articles by this point and I haven’t written a special article about it yet. On top of that, I have been blogging for 10 years now! So yeah, there will be a special article for that in the (near) future!

Besides that, I’m also working on fixing a ton of things on my blog. From typos to fixing dead links, broken images, and things like that. Also, I’m toying around with the idea to move my website to a hosting service. But, I’m not 100% sure about that, and undertaking that project will be for the summer holidays at the earliest.

Apart from that, I currently own an XBOX360 now. One of my friends sold his one and I bought it from him. So, that means I might be able to write reviews and articles about XBOX and XBOX360 games in the future. Are there any games I should check out? Feel free to leave a comment about that.

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say. I’m sorry for the shorter length of the article but that’s all I have time for now. I hope you still enjoyed reading this article and I hope to be able to welcome you to another article in the future. But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impressions: The Hive (Steam) ~ War With And Of Bugs

thehiveSteam Store page

One of my favorite game genres is RTS games. The satisfaction that you get from building up your empire, setting up an economy, and preparing yourself to defeat the enemy. It can be such a rewarding feeling. Games like Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War are just three of the amazing games I have played to death when I was a kid. Now, when I got a mail from the fine folks over at Skydome Entertainment with a press code for The Hive and full freedom with my article, I was extremely excited. This game has been under development for several years now. The first development blog posts on the Steam Store page date all the way back to December 2014 and the latest patch has been released on March 9th, 2020, which is version 1.203. This is the version I’ll talk about in this article, so if this game got an update, it’s possible that some things in this article or no longer relevant. So, without further ado, I think it’s high time that we take a look at this game and it’s worth your time or if you should skip this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

War With Bugs

TheHive2Something happened to the world. The story of this game starts off in 2175, where our planet Earth got attacked and destroyed. Humanity was able to build a ship and leave Earth before it was completely destroyed and went off a journey to look for a new planet to life. After a human lifetime of searching, a new planet in a new solar system was found. The humans were taken out of their cryogenic sleep to start-up life anew in the harsh climate. But, something is alive underneath the crust of that planet. Something awakens in the City Of Ancients that might prove a big issue for the humans and the catch is, it’s you that takes control of the new species and try and help to find it’s old glory.

You play as The Hive and you are the leader of bugs living in The City Of Ancients. The story gets more interesting in the further chapters but I’m not going to spoil it. To be honest, I got some Overlord vibes from the story. Maybe because both games are about minions you control and have their own unique abilities. The atmosphere is similar to a certain degree. The plot of this game is quite enjoyable and it didn’t disappoint at all.

One thing I should mention is that this game has no skirmish mode as far as I know. So, that means if you finish the 12-ish hour-long campaign, you basically have beaten the game. You could try to beat it on a higher difficulty to challenge yourself but outside that, the game has no real replay value after defeating the campaign.

Now, this game also has voice acting. The voice acting in this game is quite impressive. The production value is impressive for being an indie title. It feels that the voice actors put their heart and soul into the characters and gave them a nice personality. I especially liked the effects they put on the voice for the Insect Advisor.

While this game takes place in a magical universe, there isn’t a lot of technobabble. For those who don’t know that term, it means that everything has its own name and there are a million exposition dumps. If you have played an RTS game in the past, you will know right what to do and the war of the bugs can begin.

War of Bugs

TheHive1So, the gameplay loop in this game is that you have to explore the caves underneath the planet to find a way up. You learn a lot about the War and the fight against the other species that took place. While most levels use the usual RTS gameplay loop of build city, build the economy, build an army, find enemy, attack the enemy army, destroy enemy base; a few puzzles and unique twists are thrown into the mix.

In terms of gameplay and mechanics, I have a mixed feeling. There are things that I enjoyed quite a lot and there are things that baffled me. Let’s do a round of good thing – bad thing to sum a few things up.

So, while building your empire, you can not only rotate around the camera but the buildings as well. Man, I love features like these. It makes it less awkward when I placed a barracks in a corner and my units spawn out of a wall from the building. Alas, the building of buildings has one thing that I found frustrating. I have gotten so used to the fact that you can cue up buildings to build, but that doesn’t work in this game.

The gathering of resources works in a unique way. Food doesn’t rot away and workers don’t have to walk back and forth to the hive. A special cart rides out from the nearest gathering point to collect the resources. So, your workers put all the gather resources on a pile and these carts come and pick it up. The resources don’t even rot away and you don’t have to do anything for it to collect it. The only “downside” is that you can only use one worker per resource gathering point. Now, what’s the bad thing here?

Well, there is a soft-lock potential. The resources aren’t infinite. Now, imagine this scenario in the Age of Empires II. There is no more wood on the map but you need wood for your archers. What can you do? Well, you can build up a ton of farms and trade that food over for gold to buy wood at the market. This avoids the issue that if everything of one resource is gathered, it’s impossible to get. Now, in The Hive, there is no such thing as a market or a farm. Meaning that every decision counts. Thankfully, you really have to make bad decision after bad decision in order for you to soft-lock yourself but the fact that the potential is there always worried me.

The UI of this game is pretty impressive. The options menu is something that I can only praise. An explanation of what key does what? It’s a feature I’ll miss in other games. If only, a similar explanation appeared for the graphic options, but hey, that would clutter the UI of the graphics options a bit too much. Yet, I have two things that I disliked about the UI. First of all, if I may nitpick, I found the text on the buttons on the pause menu a bit hard to read since the text color and the color of the buttons are somewhat close to each other. And second, the visual design of the menu’s that you open using the pause menu are so different in design… I mean, the pause menu has a sort of cave theming like the UI in-game, and suddenly, a more space / modern UI appears for the options menu.

The fact that your vision cone appears on the mini-map is a great feature and it even rotates with you when you rotate the camera. Yet, I do have a complaint. It doesn’t change size when you zoom and/or out and especially, it always appears a bit underneath the place where you click on the mini-map. I can understand why this happens since the location of the camera isn’t where you click but a bit underneath that spot. But, it gave me a feeling I wasn’t able to click where I wanted on the mini-map.

It’s great that you can skip cutscenes and even have subtitles. But why aren’t both possible in the opening cutscene? A minor nitpick is that there are some minor grammar errors in the game (“Click of the paintings” instead “Click on the paintings” in the second level)

There is this unique mechanic where you can find treasures to upgrade your units to dissolve them for DNA points to unlock special upgrades for your units. It’s a perfect balancing act since you need to decide if you are going to dissolve the treasures and get an upgrade or use them to improve your unit(s). If only that would be explained in some sort of tutorial, which the game somewhat lacks.

Just a bit more

giphyIf you read the previous section, it might look that I’m ripping this game a new one. That there are so many things missing or wrong with this game, that it’s not a great game to play. Well, then I think you got the wrong idea. I loved my time with the game and I found it a bit disappointing that some features I expect weren’t there.

Also, the price for this game is only 15€. So, it would be wrong of me to compare this game to big titles with way bigger budgets behind it. The thing is that I enjoy this game so much, that it frustrated me that the potential that this game has is unused.

Take for example the visual presentation. The artwork, unit design, level design… they all look amazing. You really feel like being in an abandoned cave where an old civilization used to live. The animations really make the world come alive. It’s so adorable that your workers dig into the ground to create a building and that it rises up like a sort of mole hole.

The audiovisual design is outstanding as well. This game has an orchestral soundtrack that reminds me of the reboot Tomb Raider games, Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, and other similar games. It sounds familiar on one hand but new and fresh on the other hand. It’s a blast to listen too. The sound effects only add to the great atmosphere. The audiovisual design is so well done that I can excuse that some things don’t have sound effects or voice lines like when you click on an option where you don’t have enough DNA points for or certain interactions in your inventory are silent.

This game is a blast to play but you have to take into account that there are some things that don’t really work or work in the way you expect them to work. I have given several examples in the previous section, but here is another one. Why does your cursor not change when you hover over a resource or why don’t your worker acknowledge that interaction is going to happen?

This is why I said earlier in the article that I feel quite mixed about the gameplay. I enjoy playing this game but the final touches are just not there in certain cases. Now, I’m not saying that this game is unpolished or anything since there is a lot of attention to detail in most mechanics but not in all of them.

I think that this game could use another major content update or update that just focusses on making the game a bit more accessible. I think if a tutorial is added, something to avoid the soft lock potential and the functions that miss sound effects or voice lines are added; that this game gets even better.

So, I can’t wait to finish the final 5 levels I still have left to play. Since I really enjoyed my time with the game. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sci-fi games, RTS games, and even to people who enjoy adventure games. This game is quite enjoyable to play and experience. It’s an enjoyable RTS experience that I won’t soon forget. Congrats to the small Finnish team of 6 people who put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this game since I have to say, the end result is something to be proud of and it shows a ton of potential for future games and/or more adventures in the world of The Hive.

And with that, I conclude my first impression. I want to thank you 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!

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

H2x1_NSwitchDS_TheTouryst.jpg

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

First Impression: Soul Warrior Merope (PC) ~ Featuring The Developer

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Itch.io pageDeveloper TwitterTrailer

Today I’m going to write a special article. Last year, a friend of mine created a game called “Soul Warrior Merope“. At first, he wanted to create this game for mobile platforms but due to some technical difficulties, the game has been released on PC. I promised him to write an article about the game to promote and here we are. I’m sorry mate that it took so long for me to get around to it, but better late than never. So, I think it would be quite fun to review this game interview style. Yes, interview style. So, I wrote a sort of review where I asked the developer to respond to why he created the game in a certain way and things of that nature. So, introducing Priom from HatCatGames, the developer of this game.

Before I begin, I have to give some disclosure. I have helped Priom testing a previous build of the game while he was developing the game. I only gave him some advice to improve the quality of his game. But, this was when he was still developing it for mobile platforms.

Editorial note: Some friends call me Neko, others call me Jonez. If Priom mentions Jonez, he means me.

Jonez: Before we start, feel free to introduce yourself Priom. Tell us a bit about yourself and why you started developing games. Have you created other games before Soul Warrior Merope? How long was the development process for the game?

Priom: Well, I’m Quazi Fahian Muntakim. Better known as Priom or Bear Gril if you only know me on select social media platforms. I’m currently a university student from Bangladesh and a hobbyist game dev.

As for how I got here, well, I think you bore witness to some of it, Jonez. I love video games always have. Fun fact, our family was one of the earliest to adopt a computer for consumer use in Bangladesh. So I always had a love for games. Especially Side-Scrollers and RPGs.

But I think the want to make my own game for others to enjoy. And to weave interesting stories that can only be done in this medium. I think that idea started in 2012 when one of our mutual friends introduced us to RPG MAKER. And that desire kept growing until I joined the GMTK Game Jam 2017 and felt like I wanted to make something that’s available for just about anyone to play!

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Jonez: Visually, this game looks like it was created on the NES or with a sort of pixel-art style in mind. I quite like the visual style of the while. Why did you choose for this visual style? I noticed that the castle has a lot of darker tones and the outside is more colorful. Is the art style inspired by other games or franchises?

Priom: Well again, much like you, I love retro games. Some of my fondest memories come from the GBA, which also had a lot of ports for SNES games. So of course, I wanted to follow that style. Other than that I feel like pixel-art has become an art form in itself in recent times, rather than being a product of limited hardware. So choosing this particular style was a no-brainer.

As for inspiration, I can think of 2. Team Cherry’s “Hollow Knight” and Bombservice’s “Momodora” franchise. Both of them have a cutesy yet somewhat grim art-style which I absolutely adore. Other than that, I have had people mention the castle interiors remind them of “Prince of Persia” for the DOS. I wasn’t exactly trying to replicate that but perhaps it was a subconscious decision, hmm?

Jonez: The game tells a story about a young strong lady Merope looking for two missing children. A mysterious figure called Madd has something to do with it. So, are you in Madd’s castle or lair? How involved is the story, is it extremely present or does it take a backseat while the visuals and gameplay tell most of the story?

Priom: Well, since it is at the very start of the story. I guess I could tell you. The castle belonged to Arthur, the tiny glowing spirit following you around. But he and his people have been long dead. So Madd is using Arthur’s castle as a hideout.

As for the story, I was going for a bit of a free-fall route. The idea was to make an opening with a strong yet simple premise that I can add on to later. So the story’s presence is like that too. Where there’s a lot happening at the start after that you get to experience the story at your own pace while exploring the castle.

I’d like to mention that I do want to make games with more plot later on. I’ve actually gotten into the habit of having a notepad on my person and taking notes whenever ideas pop up.

Jonez: So, you can name your own price on Itch.IO for this game. Basically, the consumer can pay anything they want. Does this decision have a special reason?

Priom: The reason was simple. As this is the first game I made public like this I wanted as many people to play it as possible! It also provides an opportunity for more people to provide feedback. And I have been receiving useful feedback. So it all works out.

Jonez: In some cases, the game is a bit rough around the edges. Like hitboxes of objects only reacting to the tip of the sword or not having a jumping animation. Game development isn’t an easy task and there are so many things to keep in mind while creating a game. What did you focus on while developing?

Priom: Well, the game was rather *experimental* is how I’d put it. If there was anything I wanted to try that could help me further later on then I took it as being worth it. Which might have resulted in some things being a bit subpar than others I’d admit. But I’d like to think even the shortcomings are valuable learning experiences. You don’t realize certain things until others point them out or you relax your mind a bit.

Jonez: Now, I have a sort of related question. Let’s say that you had all the knowledge, time and resources to change a few things in the game. Which things would you change and why would you change them?

Priom: The checkpoint system. It would’ve gone bye-bye in exchange for a more standard system. It was fine at first but it managed to create more and more restrictions as the game got more fleshed out.

As for additions, I would probably just made the castle bigger with more visual lore added. I’d add a better catalog of info and a more informative UI. Along with lots of tweaks for the melee combat from experiences I gained from Game Jams I joined later down the line.

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Jonez: The game plays like a Metroidvania, where you have to get new abilities and get stronger to progress. Was it easy to find mechanics that set your game apart like using lives for your special abilities or did you had to try a lot of ideas?

Priom: As I said. Soul Warrior Merope was born from the GMTK Game Jam 2017. Which was a 2-day jam where you have to make a game under a theme? The main theme of that jam a single mechanic with multiple functions. The other abilities kind of grew from that original idea.

Jonez: Let’s talk about the music and sound design. While there aren’t too many sound effects in the game, how did you decide which sound effects to include or not include?

Priom: I think there are 8 music tracks in total. An intro, 5 for the five major areas, the boss theme which has 3 variations based on which boss you’re fighting and a track used for a very specific ending. All of the tracks are long enough so that you’ll pass through the area before the songs loop too many times.

As for sound effects, I actually like to believe that you should have enough recognizable SFX that someone can make a guess as to what’s happening blindfolded. In that sense, I would’ve preferred to add more SFX if I had more time too. But what’s chosen is the ones that are absolutely necessary to convey what’s going on, granted as long as they don’t sound bad.

Jonez: So, you told me once that you were creating the game in YoYo Games’ GameMaker: Studio. Why did you choose that engine? Apart from that program, which tools did you use and for what? Did you run into any trouble?

Priom: Well, I think it was in 2015 or earlier when my younger brother told me that Game Maker Studio’s Standard Edition was free. I was still using RPG Maker at that time but found it rather restricting. I did not, however, have much coding knowledge since my educational curriculum at that time only involved some basic C++ and HTML. So, a programmable engine for free was a generally risk-free investment. After using it I found a YouTuber by the name of HeartBeast who has some amazing tutorials that I definitely recommend for people starting out. And well I kinda just got used to the engine and bought the pro version.

Other than that, I used Piskel & Paint.Net for the art, LMMS+Audacity for audio and my younger brother, who was responsible for some of the art such as the UI and menu icons, used Aseprite.

As for the issues we faced, as time’s going on Game Maker Studio 1.x is becoming more and more obsolete. Google’s new policy doesn’t allow 32-bit apps on the play store anymore which means the game couldn’t be put into the platform. Not to mention, it didn’t provide me with a proper description of why the Android export stopped functioning too. It’s still pretty good for PC games though.

Jonez: The game isn’t that easy, you really have to learn the various abilities of your character and explore around. How did you decide to balance the game?

Priom: Well, that was the reasoning behind letting the player explore around so many of the different areas from the get-go. The game is actually less linear than initial impressions may imply. The idea is that if you get stuck in a certain place it’s perfectly fine to explore another place and through the use of the abilities you have at that moment you might be able to take a completely different route than the intended route of the game.

Jonez: Do you have any plans for the game? Do you plan on updating the game with new content, bug fixes, improvements…?

Priom: Initially, after making the game public like this. I wanted to keep it like that. But I’ve mentioned on twitter recently that I haven’t coded anything in the engine for a while due to my PC being broken. So changing certain things based on all the responses I received might be good for me to get back on track. But that all is uncertain. I do have plans on making larger and more polished games using the valuable lessons learned from the experience of making Soul Warrior Merope though. So I’d like to end this by thanking everyone who decided to give the game a shot. Thank you!

End of the interview

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And with that all said, I found this quite an enjoyable experience to write an article like this. Maybe if I have the time, I might write another one on a different game. In any case, I want to thank my buddy Priom quite a lot for giving me the chance to be a part of his dream and giving me the chance of writing this special article with him.

So, I highly recommend that you give this game a try. It might be a bit experimental and a bit rough around the edges but I honestly think that this won’t be his last project and any constructive feedback you send him, he can use to become an even better developer. On top of that, his very first game is pretty enjoyable and has quite a lot of charm.

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

Game Quicky: Spirit Roots (Switch) ~ Two Halves Make A Whole

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Nintendo micrositeDrageus Game pageDeveloper website

Today I want to talk about a game that I got a review code for from the people over at Drageus Games. In this article, I’ll give my 100% honest opinion. For this review, I’m reviewing the Switch port. The original game was created by FireArt Games and released on mobile platforms and Steam. More information can be found on the developer’s website. But for now, let’s dive right into Spirit Roots and let’s take a look if this game is worth your money or if you should skip this game. And as usual with these articles, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Editorial note: this review has been written for v1.0.0

The good

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In this game, you play as the unnamed main character on a journey to save your planet. For the purposes of this review, I’ll call him Jos. That’s the name my girlfriend chooses to name characters and she is out of inspiration. Now, Jos’s task in this game is simple. He has to save his planet that’s at the end of the stellar system.

This planet has a unique cirque. Because the planet had several hundred years of conflict, the two remaining parts of the fighting planets got stitched together to form one huge planet. Now, peace rains on the planet because both parties agreed to never cross the border. Well, that’s going to change. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have an interesting setup for a game, wouldn’t you?

The story is just amazing. The whole concept is lovely. There are so many things you can do with this idea. You can explore the concepts of who rightfully owns the land because the planet has been stitched together. Or you can explore the idea of two nations that had years upon years of conflict living together. But, more on the story later.

The audiovisual presentation is a blast to hear and see. Visually, this game looks amazing. It looks quite cute and impressively detailed. The world looks alive and quite colorful. It was a blast to play through it. The soundtrack of this game reminded me a bit of Fantasy Life on the 3DS, a soundtrack that I really enjoyed.

The levels are quite enjoyable. The game can be pretty challenging if you aren’t careful. Thankfully, the game is pretty generous with checkpoints, so you don’t have to lose a lot of progress when you die. The game also comes with three difficulty settings, that increase or decrease the challenge of the game. The game is also available in 7 languages.

The game is also quite lengthy. There are 50 levels divided over several worlds. In each level, you have a certain goal to gather all the souls. You can keep track of that goal by watching the counter at the upper left of the screen.

You don’t need to complete all the levels. When you are stuck on a certain level and have enough golden souls, you can move on to the next world and try your luck there. In order for you to reach the last world, you have to gather 44 of them. So, you have to finish around 15 levels completely before you can reach the final world. This allows you to continue the game without being frustrated because you are stuck on one level.

It’s quite clear that the game took some inspiration from games like Rayman Legends. The souls remind me of lums and the art style looks quite similar too.

The bad

NSwitchDS_SpiritRoots_02Now, I said earlier that I wanted to talk about the story again. Sadly enough I have to do that in the negatives section. You want to know how I learned about the interesting story? Not through the game, but through the information that I found on the microsite of Nintendo. Even the developer’s website is quite sparse with information. It’s a big missed opportunity. I would have loved to see how the story was used in this game. But alas, when you start the first level, you are dropped right away in the first level without any explanation.

That’s one of the biggest drawbacks of the game. But sadly enough, I found a few other problems with the game that I would like to address in this review. The first one is the jumping. Sometimes when I’m on moving platforms, I fell through them. Also, after using your slash attack, the jump doesn’t always work. This lead to various deaths that could have been avoided.

The game’s use of the term “health points” is a bit misleading. There is a 1-hit system in this game like in the Mario games. So, the health points just mean how many retries you have from the checkpoints. When you have to retry a stage, well, then you lose all your progress since the last checkpoint. But, that isn’t too big of a deal in my opinion.

Something that I found extremely silly is the fact that you have to wait for three seconds when you open the pause menu to resume playing.

Apart from that, the game lacks some minor polish. There a few animations and little things that are missing. It would be a bit too much if I sum them all up one by one but here are a few.

  • When you reach a checkpoint, only the arrow disappears. No real fanfare. In the village. The ones in the swap have an animation. But only barely, the light just switches on.
  • When you die closeby an enemy that throws projectiles, the projectiles land at the other side of the enemy, even clipping into walls.
  • The sound can hang when a tutorial appears on the screen. Especially when you slash open a change.
  • On some levels, like the 3rd one, you can see the top of the level… And it looks quite flat.
  • The texture of a door you can slash through and one you need to flip a lever for are too similar.
  • When you shoot a bullet, it keeps traveling until it’s off-screen. It doesn’t break on the walls.
  • The death animation is a bit too long in my opinion. It would have been better if you were able to get back into the action more quickly.
  • When you choose to exit a level, it tells you that it will take you to the main menu yet it takes you to the level select.

Due to these things, the game feels a bit unfinished to me. Like it’s in a state where it’s almost finished and ready to go but it’s not there yet. If the developers would put some finishing touches on the game, it would have been perfect.

But, something that I really missed in this game is a system where you can somewhat move the camera. Various times, I died to a moving spike that I wasn’t able to see coming because it came from off-screen. It would have been a big help if a similar system was implemented to avoid things like that.

Conclusion

Spirit Roots isn’t bad nor is it a good game. During my research on this game, I came across a video review by Defunct Games. I have to agree with almost the whole video. Due to some pretty major negatives, this game isn’t the best it can be.  The same goes for the review by PocketGamer.

This game shines in the audiovisual department but lacks some major features in the platforming department. So, I have a hard time recommending this game. If you enjoy B-grade platformers, I think you might enjoy this game.

But, I think that a remake or a remaster would better suit this game. It’s just a bit too stiff, a bit too rough around the edges. While I did enjoy my time with the game, I don’t think I’m going to finish this game in the near future. Maybe when I have some downtime, but we shall see.

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

Score: 60/100

NekoJonez’s November 2019 Update

Hello there, dear reader! Thank you for checking out my blog and taking time out of your day to check out this post. 2019 is coming to a close but not only that, a new decennium is going to start soon as well. I’m quite excited about it and I have a couple of plans for the future. But, I think it’s best that I mention a few things in an update article to keep my readers up to date. So, that’s why we are here. Let’s dive right into the updates about my personal life and my blog. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion and/or suggestions.

Blog updates

Something I have been promising in a lot of update articles is the fact that I’m proofreading my blog and trying to get rid of as many typos as I can. Now, I understand the argument that there shouldn’t be any, to begin with, but I’m human and spell checking isn’t my strong suit.

Now, I’m happy to say that since writing this update article, I have updated every article that I published in 2019 and a part of 2018. I’m also fixing broken links and broken images.

So, whenever you see a typo or a sentence that doesn’t make sense, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, in the comments, on Discord or on any place you catch me. I’m always happy to receive feedback and even when it’s a small typo that I have overlooked. I’m also going to do my best in the future to avoid as many mistakes as I can.

Apart from that, I have also started working on various other things like improving the overview pages, updating outdated information on the about me page and various other pages. I’m planning to somewhat merge a few pages and I have started working on that as well.

Besides that, I’m also thinking about creating new artwork and new logos for my blog. On top of that, I’m trying to work out a new theme for my blog as well. I have been using a similar site theme for so many years now, I think it’s high time for something new. But, before I do that, I want to finish reworking all the pages, categories and fixing the typos and grammar mistakes.

Lately, I’m quite busy with my personal life. I’ll talk a bit more about that in a later part of this article. This means that I’m running behind on developer requests and I even had to scrap a few. But, I’m going to try and catch up. Instead of publishing them on the weekends, I’ll publish them whenever they are done.

Now, I have a few major plans for December. Of course, I’ll publish the usual end of the year spiel but besides that, I have a few games in mind that I want to write about. In January 2020, I’m planning various nostalgic posts to look back at the past 10 years in gaming.

Before I got to the updates about my personal life, I think it’s time for the usual “update”. That is: I’m quite active on Twitter. So, when I have to skip a week or when I have updated a page or when I want to share something, you can follow it on Twitter. Most of these updates in this article are tweets I have posted in the past few months.

Personal life stuff

So, one huge piece of news is that my girlfriend @notthatalice94 started her own personal blog. You can find her on NotThatAlice’s Creative Space. On that blog, she will be mostly writing about her creative projects like photography or sewing but also about things that happened in her life. If you enjoy lifestyle blogging, be sure to check her blog out. Sure, the blog is still a work in progress, but I’m helping her out. And maybe, I’ll be writing a few guest posts on there. These posts will be mostly about things that have nothing to do with games. Of course, NotThatAlice might still write gaming-related articles on this blog as well.

So, 2019 was an extremely crazy year for me. My mental health wasn’t the best during this year but thanks to amazing friends and family I have been improving slowly. I’m also recovering from a major writing burn-out which caused me to skip several weeks. This means that I wrote fewer articles this year and my stats really show that. Last year, I had over 25k visitors to my site. In 2019, I currently have 13k. Which isn’t bad, but it’s a major decline in readers. Yet, it is better numbered then the number of people who read my blog in 2017, which were just over 12k people and we still have a month and a half to go.

Since I met NotThatAlice in March of this year, my schedule became filled pretty quickly. We have been doing so many different activities together and I have been enjoying my time quite a lot. I could write a very long love letter, but I don’t think this is the right article for it. Anyways, the reason that I mention this is that in the future my reviews might have her viewpoint as well.

Something else I have been doing is a major cleaning in my collection and my gaming room. I noticed that I had a lot of unused cables, broken handhelds, empty batteries, books I don’t read anymore… Because of this, I have a lot more room in my gaming area but this also means that I came across a ton of games I haven’t written an article on and I want to replay.

In the past few months, I have also been playing games I have started in the past but never finished. A lot of games I have written a first impression article on but never a review. So, maybe I’ll write a few follow up articles on games I have wrote first impression articles on. I have an interesting format in mind, so that might be fun.

And that is everything major that’s been happening in my life. I’m sorry for the shorter article this week, but there are a lot of events going on in my personal life and I have been reorganizing and decluttering my life. And I think that this made my last few articles even better.

In any case, thank you for reading this update 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 Impressions: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) ~ Kotaro Uchikoshi Is At It Again.

Official website

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

Date and Aiba

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

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

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

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

He is at it again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty and funny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NekoJonez’s August 2019 Update

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Hello there, it has been a long time since I spoke to my readers directly. It has been since April that I have written an update article. So, yeah, it’s time to talk about the rest of 2019 and what that means for my blog. Now, if you are wondering who these two people are on the picture. The right guy is me. And the girl in the picture is my girlfriend who already wrote two articles here. Soon, she will write another article here too. If you want to follow her, you can do so over on her Twitter. Without further ado, let’s get into the updates because there is quite a lot to talk about!

Personal things

2019

I think that 2019 will be the strongest year so far. A lot has been changing in my personal life making my schedule and day to day life quite unpredictable.

In the past four months, my work schedule changed. I had to work on Saturdays, but I had Thursdays off. I spent most of these Thursdays with my girlfriend.

For those who don’t know yet, since late March 2019, I met NotThatAlice and it didn’t take long before we became a couple. I mean, two retro gamers who are into waiting YouTube, exploring cities and nature, working on creative things… It’s a match made in heaven.

Now, starting from next week, something quite big is happening in my professional career. I signed a contract to work as an administrative and IT guy in one of my local schools. This is a personal dream of mine. A lot of people in my family have worked or are working in the education sector. From science teachers to mentoring of new teachers. I’m 5 generations in succession. Now, yes, I’m the first who isn’t going to be teaching… But, I’m honestly considering to start those evening classes again to get my teaching degree. But, that’s something I’m considering. If I’m going to start classes again, I’ll surely update you, readers.

You might have noticed that since late 2018 the number of articles that I’m writing and publishing is dropping. Usually, I write 4 articles each month, but lately, it’s only three articles a month or even fewer. This has a few reasons. Earlier I said that for the past 4 months, I have been working on Saturdays and spending time with my girlfriend on my day off. That meant that I only had Sunday to write and publish an article. This didn’t always work out.

On top of that, I’m still recovering from my bad mental health that started last year. A side effect of that bad mental health is that I actually had a writing burn-out making it even more difficult for me to focus on my writing. I have scrapped quite a lot of articles because they didn’t turn out quite right or weren’t up to the quality I wanted them to be.

While I could take a break from writing, I don’t think that’s the right solution for me. I just love writing a bit too much. Thankfully, I think I have a solution. You might have noticed that in the last few articles that I have written, that my writing style has changed a bit and that I’m experimenting with a few unique ideas to change things up. This is having a great effect on me and I’m getting back into writing.

Anyways, before I start talking about the blog updates, I want to mention that a lot has changed to my personal set-up in the past few months. I have upgraded my personal gaming rig with a new graphics card. I upgraded my GeForce 660 to a GeForce 1050. So, I now have a 4GB graphics card in my gaming rig. I also use a newer monitor that supports a newer standard of HDMI and things of that nature. Apart from that, I have bought myself a mouse mat and a wrist rest. This helps me to not have RSI issues while I’m writing or while I’m gaming.

In terms of my old retro computers, I have outfitted my Windows XP machine with an old WiFi card, so I now can mess around with those titles and get the latest version of all the drivers without having to use some sort of crazy setup. I also refurbished an old computer to a spare Windows XP machine. On top of that, I busted out all my computers and consoles to make them run more quite and have a longer life.

Blog updates

Before I get into the updates to my blog, I want to mention something about collabs. If you are interested in being a part of a big collab like my Zelda and Tomb Raider retrospective, I have good news. My friend, the Well-Red Mage, who organized the Final Fantasy retrospective together with OverThinkery is organizing a new one. It’s almost like Red and I take turns in doing one big retrospective. I guess that it’s my turn at the end of next year.

In all seriousness, the reason I’m talking about this is that I’m actually going to be a part of this big collab. It’s going to be about Mario and we are still looking for writers. More information can be found in the linked article. But this time, I’ll be helping Red with the admin and behind the scenes work in this whole collab. So, yeah.

Speaking off collabs, I’m also going to be a part of NormalHappenings’ Characters That Define Us. I’m going to write a special article about my love for the character of Lara Croft. While I have sort of done that already with the Tomb Raider retrospective… I have an idea to make the article still quite interesting to read. More information can be read here.

More information about both of these collabs will come in the future. Because these two things are still in the works and are subject to change, I don’t want to say things that might not even happen to avoid disappointment.

So, we are entering the final 4 months of 2019. As said earlier in this article, this year has been quite crazy for me. But, I still have a plan for the ending of 2019. Now, before I talk about that I want to mention like in every update article that the best way to keep up-to-date with me is to follow my Twitter feed.

With that said, here is a preview of the things I have been planning for the ending of 2019. For this week, I’m going to publish two reviews on two developers who requested my feedback. I have a couple of games I want to talk about in the final four months of 2019. As usual, I’ll end the year with my top 10 games of the year and the games I’m looking forward to playing in 2020.

My girlfriend also has a few articles she wants to write. From what she told me, they are going to be extremely interesting to read. It’s going to be a very different look at how games are played. I’m quite excited to read it actually.

So, I’m planning to use the remainder of 2019 to write about games I love to reference but of which I haven’t written an article yet. While also talking about a whole boatload of amazing new games I have been playing this year, it’s going to be challenging.

Still, due to me still recovering from a writers’ burn-out and my bad mental health, it’s possible that I’m going to write and publish 3 articles each month, excluding guest posts or press kits. Yet, if I’m in the mood and when I have the time, it’s possible that I’m going to publish more than 3 in a month. It all depends on the time and energy that I have. Yet, I’ll be writing a minimum of 3 articles each month.

The final thing I want to talk about is something that also always returns in these articles. And that’s the reorganization of my blog. I have been thinking about a lot of different things. From merging series into one to moving to a self-hosted website and changing the URL. Now, I have decided that the blog rework will be a focus of mine in 2020. This year has been so rough, I think it’s best that I’m first going to settle in my new job and make a great plan of action so that I don’t make mistakes if I decide to make major upgrades.

So, with that said, I think you guys and girls are up to date with the latest happenings in my life and the future for this blog. A lot of fun things are going to come to this blog and I’m already working on a few projects for 2020. It’s going to be so much fun and I can’t wait to see what you will think about it. Anyways, it’s time for my usual last words to close off this article.

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

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

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

Sweet Witches

Nintendo UK microsite – Publisher website – Developer website

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The gameplay

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

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

The good

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

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

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

The bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Score: 5/10

Swaps and Traps

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Nintendo UK microsite – Publisher website – Developer website

The gameplay

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

The good

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

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

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

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

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

The bad

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Score: 8/10

Closing off

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

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

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

 

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.

LaterLevels’ QOTM – January 2019 – The Ultimate Game: Themes

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For a couple of years now, LaterLevels is organizing a question of the month. In 2017, you were able to send in a small section to be featured in the article. You were limited to the number of characters you had for a tweet. In 2018, every month a writer got a challenge to write an article centered around a question asked by LaterLevels. This year, LaterLevels is going “to develop” the best and/or ultimate game. In each month, another part of the game will be created. The idea is that other bloggers write up an article with their thoughts and ideas on that section and submit it to the post of that month. At the end of the month, the best is chosen by the already existing development team and will be invited to join the secret Discord to judge the entries in the following months. If you want to read more about the rules in-depth, you can read the post of LaterLevels here. Now that I have explained all that, it’s time for my entry. In January, the setting and theme will be decided without deciding the story and such. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the question in the comment section down below.

The challenge and my background

yoyo_logo_512Now, I don’t want to brag but I have various ideas to make a very interesting game. In the past, I actually created some arcade clones with YoYo Game Maker. I’m not going to republish them since I lost the source files and I want to change so much for them to get republished.

alleyway_boxartBut, here is the thing. When I was developing a game, I always started with the mechanics and gameplay. For example, when I wanted to create a Break-Out clone, I actually started out with recreating the Gameboy game Alleyway. Now, I felt too limited in level design, so I started to look further. Then, I found an asset pack with different blocks, a ball and various other sprites with a sea theme. So, I totally reskinned the game and I made up a story about a submarine stuck in a big magical coral reef trying to find its way out.

warioware-diy-top-625x352Another example is when I wanted to remake those simple flash and phone games that you need to tap a ball or an object to keep it from the ground. When I started to make that game, I got some small ideas for other mini-games with the sprites in that asset pack and I started to create a sort of WarioWare inspired game.

Now, you might have noticed that I always talk about an asset pack. This is a pack where various sprites, sound effects, music, backgrounds… are provided to game developers. In almost all of the games I created, I used asset packs. I can barely draw a decent stick figure let alone design various level elements. Also, when I created those games; I was 12 years old. So, I didn’t know how copyright and licensing work. That’s another reason why I’m not going to republish the games.

Anyways, let’s end this storytime about my history here and let’s get back to answer LaterLevel’s question. The reason why I’m talking about my hobbyist game development past is the fact I mentioned earlier. I mainly focused on an interesting and unique gameplay. The setting and themes would come later. While that is not the best approach, but it was the approach my young teenage mind took. And because LaterLevels didn’t want too many story details, the challenge got even harder.

81i7ndliszl._sx385_I also messed around in RPG Maker. And I always had one or two chapters of the story written before I started to create the world and setting the characters lived in. I had a general idea of the world but when I write, I love to let the readers create the world for themselves instead of possibly boring them with the millionth description of how a fantasy castle town looked like. In addition to that, the fact that I don’t describe a scene gives me the liberty to use the setting to my advantage. That way I can bend the world to the story and my needs. But it makes continuity much more challenging.

So, the ultimate video game. What could be a setting and/or a theme of the game? Well, I have a few suggestions without giving too many plot details. Let’s take a look at that.

Themes and settings

First of all, when you are talking about the best game, I think that the theme should be one of the variety. A power fantasy in another world would be extremely easy and generic. Most RPGs use a silent character you can name yourself or has the most generic dialogue that can be used for each RPG main character. To be honest, this is a generalization. There are exceptions of course.

91fbW6yu4TL.jpgA perfect video game needs to grab you and pull you into the story, world, and setting. When I was brainstorming for ideas I noticed that most of my favorite story-driven games take place in one location. For example, in Corpse Party, you explore one haunted school and the associated buildings. In Another Code: R, you explore the vacation resort where your father works. And as a final example, in the first two Bioshock games, you explore Rapture.

swordartonlineSuddenly, various things started to click in my mind. I got my eureka moment. I got it when I remembered the story of Sword Art Online. In that series, people are trapped in an online VR-game. In order to escape, they have to beat the game. The catch is, when they die in the game, they die in real life. In that series, the game takes place in a huge fantasy open world with various dungeons and quests.

Now, what if we take the idea of Sword Art Online and expand it for the best game, but with a huge twist? First of all, we can decide if we create the game in VR or not later. My suggestion is that the best video game takes place in a sort of fantasy open world with castles and towns that provide a lot of quests and things to do.

no game no ligeThe twist is that everything in the world happens with games. Think of the mechanics of the No Game No Life series, where every dispute is settled with a bet who wins a game of for example chess, rock/paper/scissors, poker or even more extreme examples. Now, it would an interesting idea if this idea is implemented into a real game we can play.

Back to the story of Sword Art Online, in order for those who are trapped to escape they have to beat all bosses in a huge tower. Now, what if each floor in this tower is replaced with a challenge in another genre and that you have to beat different challenges in that genre before you can progress.

retro_game_challenge_coverart

Think about the overall story of Retro Game Challenge. In that game, you get sent back to the past and in order for you to return, you have to beat various challenges in retro games. These challenges range from beating the first three levels of a top-down shooter to performing some unique tricks in a sports game.

So, the setting would be a great fantasy open world with one central tower the players have to beat in order to climb the leader boards. On each floor, another mini-game or challenge is provided. To avoid people getting frustrated at being stuck on one floor, I think it would be wise to give the player two or three options on the floor. For example, a fighting game challenge, an RPG challenge or a rhythm game challenge.

51vk2fckjhlMaybe it’s an interesting idea to also have separate dimensions where players specialize in a certain genre or style of gameplay. Compare it a bit to the main characters in Kingdom Hearts traveling between various Disney stories to solve issues there.

The theme of the game can be either competition or teamwork. Various guilds can possibly form to aid players to easily beat certain genres. On the other hand, I totally see certain players compete with each other to be the best player in a certain genre.

Being one of the best players in a certain genre can give advantages in the game. In terms of balance, each genre should have a “contrast genre”. That way we avoid players getting overpowered because they mastered too many genres. For example, the players who master a fast-paced genre like rhythm games shouldn’t be able to easily level up their stats in a more slower based genre like grand strategy.

Do you see it now? Just trying to find a setting and or a theme for a game is tricky for me. Like I said earlier, I don’t create worlds too often and I leave them as vague as I can so I can bend them to the will of the gameplay and story. As soon as I got a certain idea, I start thinking about how the world actually works and how the world is balanced. And then we get eerily close to game design and how the game plays.

When I cut out all my gameplay & story suggestions, my idea for the ultimate game’s setting and the theme is this. A big open-world game with various challenges like dungeons and (side)quests, possibly with different universes. In the center of it all, is a huge tower that serves as a leader board for the solo and or clans that play the game.

Closing statement

And with that, I think it’s a good idea to end this article here. Otherwise, I might restart giving my ideas and suggestions on how the game will play. Now, if you want to know if my idea has won or not, you should follow OverThinkerY, since, on 31st January 2019, they will reveal the winner on his blog.

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If you want to join in on this challenge, don’t wait. Check out LaterLevels blog for the February challenge.

With that said, I want to thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed 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: Resident Evil 4 (PS2) ~ Leon, Help Me! LEEEEOOONN!

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Wikipedia entry

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

Ashley & Leon’s “vacation”

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley isn’t Elisabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has aged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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