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. Just because I don’t feel like being creative now and looking for another name. 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, 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 a good friend. 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 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

AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES_20190905202822

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 left off so I could pick up the game right where I left off when I played it for 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

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.