Tag Archives: Television

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.

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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.

Tomb Raider – Writer’s Raid

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The logo for this project is created by The Well-Red Mage

Official website

The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy are series that have a lot of loving fans. Now, besides the Legend of Zelda series, there is another series that had a strong presence in my childhood. As a child, I fell in love with the Indiana Jones franchise. I played the various Indiana Jones games until either the cartridge or the CD gave up. Now, I wanted more. Because of that lust for more, I discovered the Tomb Raider franchise. The first Tomb Raider game I ever played was Tomb Raider 5 – Chronicles. That was enough for me to decide to hunt down all Tomb Raider games and play them from start to finish. And I’m not the only one who enjoys Tomb Raider and let me prove that to you, I’m going to raider the various tombs this franchise throws at us together with some amazing befriended bloggers. I hope you are ready since various treasures of articles will await you in these tombs. Let’s. Get. Raiding.

1996 – Tomb Raider

Tomb_Raider_(1996)Games With Coffee takes us through Lara’s adventure to help Natla.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee, since we are taking a journey through the good old first entry of Tomb Raider.

Together with Games With Coffee we take a nostalgic look to Tomb Raider and discover how it “holds up” today. Depending on who you ask of course.

The analysis of this game is extremely well done and made me remember various stories of the first time I played Tomb Raider. Seriously, give it a read! 

1997 – Tomb Raider II Featuring Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIABXY Game Reviews is following Lara through her journey to find a Dragon’s dagger!

ABXY Game Reviews really wanted to play an old school Tomb Raider game. And I was looking for writers. A match made in heaven I think.

In heaven, that’s where the object Lara is after in her second adventure. A mythological Chinese dagger can came from the heavens that can turn mere mortals into dragons.

Did ABXY Game Reviews enjoy his journey through old school Tomb Raider or do fans of this game get blinded by nostalgia? You have to read this article to find out.

1998 – Tomb Raider III – The Adventures of Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIINekoJonez helps us find four artifacts.

I love telling this story. When I first played Tomb Raider III, I thought I was playing Tomb Raider IV. The reason for that, well, I explained that in my nostalgic look-back of Tomb Raider III.

I tried to avoid writing a review for this game and give some retrospective facts. But it was great fun playing through this game again for this project.

So please, feel free to give one of my entries in this project a read.

1999 – Tomb Raider IV – The Last Revelation

Tomb_Raider_-_The_Last_RevelationSarahsGameCollection is going to take us on a journey to raid the Egyptian tombs!

I discovered Sarah’s website through this project. And I haven’t regretted it at all. Her website is a joy to browse through and read.

Her unique writing style is something I love most about her website. While she writes, she adds personal comments like if she is telling a story to you and it’s great fun to read.

I think that this article came together quite well since it made me want to replay Tomb Raider IV for myself.

2000 – Tomb Raider V – Chronicles

Tomb_Raider_-_ChroniclesTriformTrinity is taking us to Lara’s funeral…?

If you want to know if you should play Tomb Raider Chronicles, you shouldn’t look further. Triform Trinity wrote a short review of the game.

I wrote an article on this game last year, and it shows how people can differ in opinion.

Anyways, I  highly recommend you reading this article. It was a joy to work with TriformTrinity and reading his through his website is such a great and fun time. Since I can assure you that I always have a fun time when I visit his website.

 

2000 – Tomb Raider Level Editor

Tomb_Raider_Level_EditorNekoJonez took a look at Tomb Raider fan’s levels.

I have to admit that I was planning to write an article about the level editor for Tomb Raider for quite a while.

To be honest, this game is one of the reasons why I organized this collaboration in the first place. Since it’s a creative platform that brings a community together. And this project is the perfect “excuse” to talk about something unique like this.

So, if you are curious about what the level editor can do, feel free to read it on my blog and I hope you like it.

2003 – Tomb Raider – Angel of Darkness

Tomb_Raider_-_The_Angel_of_DarknessSarah’s Game Collection is helping to solve this murder mystery…

If there is one Tomb Raider game I haven’t fully played it, it has to be Tomb Raider – Angel of Darkness.

I heard so many things about it. From it being a bad game to being a decent game. After reading the review that Sarah wrote for this game I got even more interested in finishing this game.

Now, I invite you to read along with me this amazing analysis of the final game that Core worked on in the series.

2006 – Tomb Raider Legend

Tomb_Raider_-_LegendLiana takes us on the legendary journey for a sword.

In this retrospective collaboration project, I always give freedom to the writers. This resulted in Liana writing an amazing piece where she analyzed the game very deeply.

Not only that, she talks about the history and development of this game. And she even took a deeper look at who Lara Croft actually is.

I can highly recommend that you give this article by Liana a read. And if you are interested in more of her work, you can also visit her YouTube channel, which I HIGHLY recommend as well.

And allow me to slip some personal advertisement in as well since I reviewed this game last year myself.

2007 – Tomb Raider – Anniversary

Tomb_Raider_-_AnniversaryGames with Coffee takes us, again, on Lara’s adventure to help Natla…

Now, I hope your coffee didn’t go cold since we are going to take a look at the remake of Tomb Raider I.

Games with Coffee brings you a very in-depth review and look at this game. He played it on Steam. I played this game on my PC as well and I have to agree with a lot he said in the article.

This game was one of the games that really drew me into the whole Tomb Raider franchise and it hasn’t let go since.

2008 – Tomb Raider Underworld

Tomb_Raider_-_UnderworldLiana takes us on a journey through the underworld.

Now, Liana takes a look at Tomb Raider Underworld in a very interesting way. You won’t find a review of the game in this article but a very interesting in-depth analysis of the game’s story.

Reading the article was extremely interesting. It helped me to connect some dots I didn’t even realize that there were before.

She also analyses Lara’s character and how it all fits in the lore of the series. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go read Liana’s article!

2010 – Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Lara_Croft_and_the_Guardian_of_LightLaterLevels is going to battle for the light.

After I finished Tomb Raider Underworld, I was waiting on the next entry in the Tomb Raider series. To my surprise, we had to wait 5 years on a new entry in the main series.

Yet, during this wait, we got Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. A game that’s on my endless backlog list.

When I talked to Kim from LaterLevels and asked her if she wanted to be part of the Tomb Raider project, she suggested playing this game on stream together with her other half. She didn’t stream this game but the other spin-off. More on that later.

Now, what did she think of this game? You can read it in Kim’s article. Enjoy!

2013 – Tomb Raider

TombRaider2013OverThinkerY takes us to a Japanese island…

“A famous explorer once said, that the extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are. I’d finally set out to make my mark; to find adventure. But instead adventure found me. In our darkest moments, when life flashes before us, we find something; Something that keeps us going. Something that pushes us.”

That was one of the best quotes out the reboot of Tomb Raider in 2013. In this article, my good friend OverThinkerY took a look at the game. His analysis is great and I loved reading his article. I think you will enjoy it as well.

Also, this game has a special place for me on my blog since it’s the first game I reviewed since I started my English blog in 2013. You can read it here.

2014 – Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Lara_croft_and_the_temple_of_osiris_artLaterLevels takes us on a journey through the Temple of Osiris.

So, Kim didn’t know that there were two spin-off games. When I told that to Kim, she didn’t hesitate for a second and decided that she wanted to also write about the 2nd spin-off game.

Kim did a stream of this game together with her other half. You can watch Twitch.TV archive in case you missed it: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/310930370

But I also highly recommend to check out her review of this game. Since I loved reading it.

2015 – Lara Croft: GO! & Lara Croft Relic Run

TriformTrinity puzzles his way through various tombs…

…and runs for relics.

Now, in this Writer’s Raid, we also took a look at two Lara Croft mobile games. These are Lara Croft Go and Lara Croft Relic Run. Honestly, I have played a bit of Lara Croft GO myself, but I haven’t played a lot of Lara Croft Relic Run.

So, if you are curious if these games are something for you and worth buying on your Android or iOS device, I think you will enjoy these two articles that TriformTrinity wrote. Have a great read!

2015 – Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise_of_the_Tomb_RaiderOverThinkerY looks at Lara’s rise in Lara Croft.

Of course, had Tomb Raider (2013) to end with a cliff hanger. So, the story could continue in Rise of the Tomb Raider.

OverThinkerY takes a great look at the game and gives his own honest opinion on it. (And I gave mine a few years ago)

Something I really liked in OverThinkerY’s article is that he compared this game to what he likes in other games. And he played this game with the DLC included. So, give it a read, I can highly recommend it.

2018 – Shadow Of The Tomb Raider

SotTR_HERO-1-heroNekoJonez is going to take us on Lara’s latest journey.

While we were planning this project, the newest Tomb Raider game got released. To be honest, I claimed this game right away. I wanted to play this game anyways and I felt that it was a perfect way to close this collaboration.

So, what did I think of Lara’s latest adventure? If you want to know that, you’ll have to read my article on Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

And then this was the loot

I knew in advance that the group of writers for this project was going to be very different compared to my previous projects. I want to thank all the writers who helped me in this project, some even replayed games which didn’t age too well.

I hope you enjoyed reading this collaboration between me and these lovely bloggers: Games With Coffee, ABXY Game Reviews, Sarah’s Game Collection, Liana Kerzner, TriformTrinity, LaterLevels, and OverThinkerY.

Do check these people out! They are all amazing people and I have to thank all of them to make this become a reality. Besides The Legend of Zelda, Tomb Raider is one of the biggest series from my childhood and reading all these different pieces made me remember why I love the series.

I have to admit that the games didn’t age all too well so it was quite interesting to see what everybody thought about the games they played.

I hope you enjoyed reading through these articles and enjoyed exploring the websites that made this unique project come to life. Feel free to be a Tomb Raider and explore these websites since they are all great sites that I can highly recommend.

If you want to read more articles like these, last year I did a similar project like this on the Zelda series. Also, my friend the Well-Red Mage did something similar to the Final Fantasy series. So, thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed creating 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!

Writer’s Raid: Tomb Raider III – The Adventures of Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIIWikipedia entry

I remember quite well buying a copy of Tomb Raider IV & V in one bundle. When I came home and placed the install disc for Tomb Raider IV in my PC, I was surprised that Tomb Raider III started installing. I didn’t mind so much, I found the files for Tomb Raider IV on the disc labeled Tomb Raider V. I already owned Tomb Raider V, so I got extremely lucky there. Since I took a look at Tomb Raider IV in the past, I think it would be more interesting for this project to take a look at Tomb Raider III. Now, what do I mean with “this project”? Well, a group of writers and myself took a look at the whole Tomb Raider series and like the Zelda project last year, there is a hub article you can find here if you want to read the other amazing articles.

The Adventures of Lara Croft

TR3-1In this game, Lara is searching for the Intifada Stone. When she finds the artifact, she gets approached by a researcher from RX Tech, who informs her about a meteorite that landed in Antarctica millions of years ago. This meteorite was used by the Polynesians to create various powerful stones, one of which is the Intifada Stone. So, Lara starts a quest to find all the stones before they fall in the wrong hands.

The story is quite interesting. The main arc of the story, I explained above. But the story takes Lara on several different journeys with their own story. It’s a bit like Tomb Raider V, but the big difference is that they aren’t remembering Lara’s adventures after her death.

So, compared to Tomb Raider II, what is new in this game? Quite a lot actually. The game was primarily made for the PlayStation and was meant as a sort of next-gen Tomb Raider. Core Design created a totally new engine for the game and a lot more. If you want to read up on the development, the Wikipedia page I linked above has a lot more to talk about.

The game did rather well. The game scored an average of 7/10 from different publications. If you look on GameRankings.com, the PS1 version even got a bigger score than the PC counterpart. It’s a 5% difference.

Now, the version I have in my collection is “Tomb Raider III – The Lost Artefact”. This is a version with some additional levels included. With these 5 additional levels, the game takes a nice 25 hours to beat the game, making this the longest Tomb Raider game in the series.

The story of the expansion pack takes place in between the story of Tomb Raider III. So, it’s no epilogue or prologue. Also, this expansion pack was only released for people who owned the PC or MAC version. Sadly enough, this game was sold as a standalone game. The previous two games also had an expansion pack which was either part of a re-release or free to download from the official website.

The game also provided quite a lot of new things and moves to play around with. Lara got some new abilities like using the monkey bars. The new things in this game include new swimming and water mechanics, quicksand and various other things.

I’m glad that I played this game on the PC since on the PS1, the save feature is restricted. The save feature works sort-of like the save feature in the early Resident Evil games. Where you have to find Ink Ribbons for the typewriters to save. In Tomb Raider III, you have to find save crystals to use the save feature in the main menu.  Since I love to save often in the older Tomb Raider games, I would have been so frustrated if that was also the case on the PC.

During the game, you go to India, UK, USA, and Antarctica. You can also visit Lara’s home in this game. If you are a first-time player, I highly recommend that you explore Lara’s home first. This way you can get used to the controls and the mechanics of Lara’s jump in the gym. Also, yes, I have fond memories of locking Winston up in the freezer.

How does it hold up?

TR3-2For me personally, this game was fun to play through. The game tested my retro gaming skills quite a lot and I enjoyed walking around the levels. While I had my share of frustrations when missing a jump or not directly knowing where to go, I still had a lot of fun exploring this game.

Now, this game hasn’t aged like fine wine. This game isn’t for everybody. While I don’t mind the dated visuals, I can understand that some people would hate the visuals. The visuals are early PS1 visuals. Yet, I feel they still have some charm and still look better than Tomb Raider I or II.

This game has decent controls. The big issue I have with them is that you can’t rebind the keys easily. There is some trickery you can do, but it shouldn’t be this annoying. Also, since I use an AZERTY keyboard layout, some keys were in different places. Thankfully, I got used to the controls after a few levels and I was able to pull of great moves.

Something that did age quite well, in my opinion, is the music and sound effects. While the soundtrack is extremely short, it’s still a joy to listen too. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the game. It’s relaxing when you are climbing and tense when you are fighting a boss. The sound effects pulled me into the atmosphere of this game.

TR3-3I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game. The only thing I had issues with was the vehicle sections. But, that was mostly because I didn’t know you could speed them up. After I learned how to do that, I had fewer issues with them. While it’s quite possible to play this game without a walkthrough, I used BadAssGamez’s walkthrough when I was stuck. He finished this game without using any medkits and got all the secrets as well.

In his video’s he also shows tricks on how to skip certain fights or how to easily defeat enemies. If you aren’t used to old-school Tomb Raider games, I highly recommend that you watch his walkthroughs if you need some help in beating this game. If you are used to old-school Tomb Raider games, this game will provide you with various challenges. My favorite level was the 8th level, the Temple of Puna. Mainly because it had various moments that reminded me of Indiana Jones.

I think that this game is still worth a playthrough. If you enjoy playing retro adventure games, I can’t recommend this game enough. I do understand that this game isn’t for everyone. There are moments where the game clearly shows its age. Don’t expect a game with a more modern polish, expect a game that challenges you in various areas that takes you back to when you were young and played games after homework on your parent’s computer.

If you want to give this game a try, it’s still being sold on Steam for 7€ and on GOG, you find Tomb Raider 1+2+3 together for 9€. So seriously, what are you waiting for?

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. If you are interested in a full review of this game, please tell me in the comments. 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.

NekoJonez’s October 2018 Update

DSC_0957

Dear lord, is it already October? This year has been flying by and it was extremely nuts. So, I think it’s time to update you guys and girls on what’s going on in my life and what you can expect for the future of my blog. This is quite a lot to talk about so, here we go. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below. 

Personal life stuff

In a previous update, I talked about a few things. Let’s first start with my final project. That’s currently in full swing. Researching and writing this out takes up a lot of my time. For those who don’t know, I’m a college student and I’m doing Computer Science. I have finished all my subjects and now I have my final project to write. I’m taking the networking classes. My final project is upgrading and monitoring a school network. It’s quite a challenge and I’m learning quite a lot.

Because of that, I don’t always have the time to play new games to write about on my blog. In addition to that, I sometimes feel burned out on writing and then writing something for my blog is just a bit too much. So, if I skip a week, I’ll always announce it on my Twitter.

Besides my final project, my theater group started in the new season. Currently, I’m working on some things for our open stage next week. It will be quite a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see it when it all comes together. But that has been eating my free time as well.

Troy and Dobby.jpg

On top of that, my family and I are raising two adorable little fluffballs. Since Sparta died in July of 2018, I really missed having a cat around to hold me company. In August of this year, we adopted these two little kittens. They are brother and sister. The left gray one has been named by my sister and this lady is called Dobby. The right brown one has been named by me. I named this man Troy. His name has been chosen as a reference to Sparta. Our bonds are slowly but surely forming. Currently, they have grown enough to learn to explore outside. That’s fun. It really melts my heart when Troy starting to meow when he doesn’t see me for a few minutes when we are outside. They rarely sit still, so I won’t be flooding my Twitter with pictures of them, but I’ll try.

So, it’s quite clear by now that I’m quite busy. I’m still working full time as well. In my last update, I also talked about my bad mental health. Currently, the situation hasn’t improved a lot. But, huge changes are happening. Because of privacy reasons, I won’t be talking about them in public.

Before I start talking about the blog related things, I want to talk about the games I’m playing. Currently, I’m playing a lot of games I have reviewed in the past. Games like The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild, Europa Universalis IV, A Hat in Time amongst a slew of others. I mostly want to wrap up those games so I can cross a few games on my backlog list. But, I’m still playing some other games I want to review or talk about.

Blog stuff

So, something strange is going on with my blog. For some reason, my views are all over the place. While I have days that my blog is doing very good, I have also days that I barely get any visitors over.

Opera Snapshot_2018-10-07_200020_wordpress.com

That said, if anyone can explain to me why my views are so low, that would be welcome. Any feedback on my work is welcome. Also, if you ever have a suggestion for a review or a topic you want me to talk about, feel free to contact me on my Twitter or contact page.

A project I have currently running on my blog is the Tomb Raider project. Currently, we are extremely close to finishing it. I have to finish two articles, which I might do next week. I’m aiming to release it somewhere this year. I’ll update you guys on the release date on my Twitter.

In almost every update I talk about wanted to update my blog with new categories and updating older articles (Mostly removing typos, fixing broken links and images). For now, I won’t be doing that. I’ll mostly be focusing on the currently running projects. The whole restructuring and updating of my blog will be for 2019.

What else can you expect from me in 2018? Besides the Tomb Raider project, I don’t have any crazy plans. I have a few games I still want to talk about on my blog before the year ends. There are a few Switch, PC, PSP and PS2 games I still want to review.

I do have some plans for 2019. I have a few ideas for collaborations and other projects. But, I’ll only be able to work on them when the new year starts. Simply, because I don’t have the time for them now.

And that’s everything I wanted to talk about for now. This article has been a summary of my tweets in the past few months, so, if you want to know these things hot from the press; you should follow me on Twitter.

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.

Personal: What’s on my phone

asus zenfone 3 max.jpg Product page

About a year ago, I wanted a new phone. My first smartphone was a Samsung, which was my 2nd and 3rd smartphone as well. I always wanted to try a different brand and since I bought an Asus Zenpad 8S in 2016 for my birthday, I wanted to give the Asus Zenfone a try. I’m quite content with my Asus Zenfone 3 MAX. I have the 5.5-inch version, so it’s quite a big phone in my opinion. So, a while ago, there was a tag challenge in the tech community to tell your audience what you have on your phone. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I still want to do it. So, here we go. Also, I invite other bloggers to do the same thing. What is on your phone? If you write an article about it, feel free to tag me on Twitter or link to this article. Or feel free to leave a comment here as well. 

Mini review

So, before we go to the main event, I first want to give a mini-review on the Asus Zenfone 3 MAX. What are the things that I love and dislike about the phone? I have been using this phone for a year now. If you want to read up on the specs of my phone, you can read it here on gsmarena.com.

There are a few things I dislike about this phone. If you use the screen at max brightness and either WiFi or 4G, the phone’s battery drains quite fast. Lowering the brightness helps quite a lot to save battery. Another thing has to do with the call quality. Sometimes the microphone doesn’t pick up my voice too well and the other end doesn’t hear me, but if I reposition the phone a bit, that fixes the issue. Another thing I dislike is that buttons like home or back aren’t backlit. But, that’s all I really dislike about this phone. While other reviewers would find other things wrong with it, I really like this phone and it fits my needs perfectly.

So, what are the things I really like about this phone? It’s my first phone with a fingerprint reader. This makes life so much easier. More on that later. Another thing I really like is how this phone seems to get frequent updates to the latest version of Android and all the latest security patches. I prefer the ZenUI over TouchWiz any day of the week. The camera on the phone is really good for family pictures in my opinion. But, the biggest factor for this phone is that it’s priced at 250-280€ and you get an amazing phone for that price.

What’s on my phone?

Now, what’s on my phone? Quite a lot actually. I nearly always carry my phone with me since it’s a handy tool when I need to look up something quickly or snap a quick picture of something I need to remind myself of.

Since I’m rarely at my desk at work, I always have my phone with me. So, they can call me whenever there is a problem. Also, I love listing to music while walking and I use my phone as an old school music player. So, my music app is one of my most frequently used apps.

First of all, I won’t talk about every single app that’s on my phone. There are quite a few games I have installed on my phone for when I’m in a waiting room or have some time on the train and the batteries of my 3DS or Switch are out. I’ll only talk about the apps I placed on my home screen since those are the apps I use the most.

Whenever there is an app I use often, I place it on my home screen. If I stop using it frequently, I remove it from my home screen and replace it with something else I use frequently.

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This is my first home screen. This screen greets me when I unlock my phone. For obvious reasons, I won’t show how I unlock my phone. On the left of my main home screen is the Google Assistant/Google Now. This way I can catch up with the latest news of the subjects I’m interested in. On the right, there is a 2nd home screen with additional apps. More on that later.

At the bottom, I use the classic vanilla apps. From left to right, you have the dialer, my text messages, a button to see all apps, Chrome, and my camera. On top of my home screen is a big clock with the date displayed. Besides that clock, I have the messenger app. I talk quite often to friends over messenger and if I want to share a link, Messenger is the easiest way. Underneath that, you have the Play Store. Each morning, I update all my apps and check the store if there isn’t anything interesting that I could review on my blog.

Then, you have three rows of 4 apps each. The first row is my calendar, my finder app, Discord, and Dropbox. The calendar app is Google Calendar. I use this app often to remind myself of things I need to do. I put more than just my appointments or birthdays in my calendar. Things like: “Article day”, “Write the time for the final project”, “Write a piece for collab” or “Release of thing X” are things that appear in my calendar as well. Appointments have a red color and things I need to do have either blue or yellow. Blue if it’s something I could delay and yellow if it’s urgent or if it can’t be delayed.

The file explorer is the one that comes with Asus’ ZenUI and I love it. It gives me Windows-vibes and it’s really great to use. Whenever I download a file, I can quickly find it with this app. When you open it, you can select to view all images, videos, music, documents… on your phone or just explore the phone. An amazing feature here is that I can set up a wireless method of accessing the files on my phone. When my phone and the device I want to access from being connected to the same network, I can wirelessly access the files on my phone. It creates a link I can visit and I see the same thing as the file explorer app. This app saved me various times.

I use Discord to talk to other bloggers and friends from over the whole world. I’m also part of some servers where game developers look for bloggers to promote their games. If you want to add me on Discord, just shoot me a message over Twitter. But, an app I use really frequently as well. I actually have Dropbox Pro, since I use this as a backup method. I have close to 500GB stored in my Dropbox. Everything from files I need for work to my final project is in there. So, I never worry too much about dying hard drives or losing my files. I also use the Photo Sync feature of Dropbox. This feature saves all the pictures I make with my phone in my Dropbox so I can use them directly on my computer or all the other devices I connected to Dropbox.

In the second row, we find Instagram, WordPress, YouTube, and WhatsApp. I do have an Instagram profile, but don’t frequently use it. I enjoy browsing Instagram to see what my friends are up to. If you can’t guess why I use the WordPress app, well, I use it for checking and fixing things on my blog on the go. So, I’m quite a big fan of YouTube. I love watching tech channels, retro gaming channels, game development channels and various other channels relating to creating things. The final app on that row is Whatsapp. I mostly use that app to keep in contact with my family or my theater group. That’s all I use Whatsapp for.

The final row on my main home screen is the row with the most used apps on my phone. Twitter, since I’m quite active on Twitter. Outlook to check my mails and “Nationaal” is the app I use to check the train schedule to get from and to work. I know that I skipped an app. That’s “Pulsar+“. In one of the firmware updates of my phone, Asus removed the quite excellent ZenUI music app. So, I searched high and low for a great music app on the Play Store. First I used Pi MP3 Player, but I started to run into issues. For some reason, no apps wanted to update on my phone after I installed that app.

Not too long after, I found Pulsar. I liked the app so much, I actually bought the premium version. It includes additional themes and some neat additional features. I can’t recommend this app enough if you enjoy listing to music on your phone. It’s one of the best apps I have used in a while.

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So, on my 2nd home screen are the apps I use less frequently but I want quick access too. Let’s start with the first row. This has the Facebook app, the UEFA soccer app, a weather app, and the Nintendo Switch Online app. The weather app, AccuWeather, is an amazing weather app. It’s quite accurate in my area and I use it to check if I need to take an umbrella on my walks or not. I use the UEFA soccer app since the soccer app of my local sports channel doesn’t have the UEFA Nations League tables built-in. I use the Facebook app since I dislike the website on mobile and I find that it was quicker and easier access to certain features. And finally the Switch online app, I use that app for if I want to voice chat during online Switch play.

The next row has the Steam app, for when I want to check the Steam Store and to have an additional layer of security for my Steam account. Besides that, the Easy Banking app is the app I use to check my finances. Then, you have the Sporza Soccer app. I use this app to follow my local soccer league and to see what the Red Devils, our national soccer team is up to. And Bancontact is used for quick payments, once you set up this app, paying for the doctor goes so quickly.

Oh, before I continue, quick side note. If you are American, I mean football when I say soccer. That said, let’s continue.

The next row has my gallery. When I need to show a picture of somebody. I find the way that the gallery app sorts pictures better than how my finder app sorts them. Besides that, you have the calculator app. Strangely, this is one of the only apps that doesn’t have its name translated in the ZenUI to Dutch. It such say “rekenmachine”. Oh well. It doesn’t bother me that much. Then, you have the Maps app, I use it as a GPS. And finally on that row, you have Imgur, for quickly uploading pictures and since I love this website.

The final row has the Telenet Mobile app. This app is from my ISP and I use this app to check on how much mobile data I have left. Besides that, you got Reddit. I have periods when I get very addicted to Reddit and go on the site a lot and there are moments I rarely visit the site. The final two icons on that row are the Patreon app and the Grumpy Cat game.

I use the Patreon app to check on posts the creators made that I support on Patreon and the Grumpy Cat game is just one of my favorite games on my phone at the moment.

You might notice that I leave one row empty. This row is my temp row. On this row I place apps I just installed and I want to test or if a developer asks me to review them. So yes, that screenshot might be a teaser for an upcoming article. Whenever I tested them or wrote the article, I usually remove them from my home screen.

A few apps that I want to mention that aren’t on my home screen are:

Ringtone Maker – MP3 Cutter – One feature I miss from Samsung is that when you select a song as a ringtone, it searches the best part of the track to start the ringtone. This app solves that and I can even choose from where start my ringtone.

Datasize Explorer Pro – Whenever I’m running low on space on my phone, I use this app to check which apps take up a lot of space and I should remove or clean the cache of.

WiFi Analyzer – If you are a techie or a networking person, this app is a must on Android devices. It helps you to visualize WiFi to help you troubleshoot issues with WiFi.

And all the other apps, outside of games, are apps from local stores here in Belgium or the Netherlands I use to shop or to buy my retro games from. Or your typical apps that almost everybody has like Shazam. And a few apps I don’t think are worth mentioning.

So, that was quite a lot. I’m quite curious to see which phones you guys have and for what you use it and what apps are on your phones. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was something different from what I usually do, but next time I’ll get back into gaming stuff. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

The Sunshine Blogger Award #2 of 2018 for NekoJonez

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It took me quite some time to reply to this. I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger award for the second time this year. Now, I want to thank Why We Play Games for this award. The recognition means a lot to me. I just love writing and sharing my experiences with people who want to read my stories. And, people do enjoy it. As shown by the various community awards my blog keeps getting. I also love these community awards, since it not only helps the readers to discover new people, it’s also a motivational boost for the person who receives it. And another reason is, it’s a nice opportunity to get to know the actual person behind the blog. So, it’s time to do my duty here and talk about this award. As usual, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

The rules

Ah, copy-paste is a useful thing in these kinds of situations.

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

So, we can already check that first one from the introduction. Now, let’s take a look at the questions that Why We Play Games asked us.

Questions and answer

1. What is the game that you play the most?

Well, I have some games I have clocked more than 200 hours in. Since not every console tracks your playtime, I can’t say with which game I spent the most time. So, here are a few.

Minecraft: it’s a game I play on and off. There are times I don’t play anything else besides Minecraft and there are times I don’t want to play it. I just love exploring the worlds the generator throws at me. I create a base, where the main focus is a storage system of all the different things I hoard during my explorations. Also, I have very fond memories of playing on various servers with my friends. Ah, good times.

Europa Universalis IV: I have to thank one of my best friends MiseryLC for this. From the over 350 hours I have clocked in this game, I think more than half is spent with him. It’s really surprising how addictive this game is while it’s nothing more than staring at a map.

To avoid that this article gets too long, here are a few games that I adore and I have spent ages playing.

Rollercoaster Tycoon, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, The Legend of Zelda Oracle of Ages / Oracle of Seasons, Age of Mythology and The Legend of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild to name a few

2. What is your favorite gaming memory?

Well, it is the memories that stick with me. Like various stories, I can tell from my times playing together with friends. Besides that, there are various other games of which the story really hit some emotional strings.

Games like A Hat in TimeThe Legend of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild, Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Zero Time Dilemma (and the whole Zero Escape series actually)Bioshock 2, and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon are just a few games that come to mind.

There are other games were the story or the concept really interests me. Games like Alan Wake, Evoland, Remember Me and Mirror’s Edge are a few that come to mind. I could list these games for hours.

I just love how they give inspiration for other stories. When I was a young lad (I’m 25 now) I used to write fantasy stories. And playing these games and them giving me new inspiration for writing stories is just amazing. So, I’m sorry that I can’t pinpoint my favorite memory since I have too many.

3. What is your favorite gaming series?

This is an evil question. But if I have to name one series that’s almost always an instant-buy for me than it’s… The Legend of Zelda. Those games introduced me to my favorite genre in gaming and that’s the adventure genre. Which are adventure games?

While I love playing a lot of genres, adventure games are my absolute favorite. There aren’t too many genres that I love playing more. I just love exploring worlds and going on quests. Sometimes I enjoy some additional RPG elements like in Pokémon and sometimes I want to explore tombs like in Tomb Raider.

4. What is your favorite part of gaming?

The answer to this question has two parts for me. The first part is simple. Gaming is my hobby. It helps to get my stress levels down and help me relax. In addition to this, it transports me to different worlds and has amazing experiences. And these experiences feel more immersive than movies or books.

The second answer is this blog. I love sharing my experiences with you all. Thanks to this blog, various developers contacted me and gave amazing and very interesting experiences to play.

So, thanks to this blog I can combine the two biggest things I love about this hobby. I can relax and enjoy playing games while I’m able to share my opinion about it.

Actually, thinking about this question, I have another answer as well. I enjoy having interesting experiences. And thanks to modern and retro games I have that experience. That’s why I perhaps go after the more unique and less known games.

5. What is your favorite genre of music?

If I have to choose an absolute favorite style of music, I have to say that I love Euphoric Hardstyle. Here is an example of this style of music, it’s an almost 3-hour long mix created by Euphoric Hardstylez.

I can’t say when I discovered hardstyle. Back when I was younger, I had a friend who introduced me to Angerfist and various other techno hardcore artists. I think that thanks to YouTube I discovered artists like Coone, Zatox, Code Black, Frontliner, Wasted Penguins and various others.

Yet, I don’t like every hardstyle track. It has to be melodic. I really dislike music where it sounds like some broken machines. While I’m sure there is an audience for those styles of music, it’s not really in my library.

Besides that, I have a few other genres that I really like. Obviously, I really like game OST. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have written a lot of articles about my favorite tracks I heard while playing games. I also like Vocaloid, chiptune, orchestral, techno, dance, trance, Eurobeat, pop-rock, symphonic metal, power metal, drum & bass…

6. What is your favorite book or book series?

Well shoot, I’m not really a book reader. I used to enjoy reading books but the last time I actually read a book was a couple of years ago when I read the novelization of Alan Wake.

It’s really awkward. I enjoy writing stories and novels, but I don’t like reading them. I think my main issue is that I always think of how things could be written differently. How would I have written the story?

And now, allow me to make it even more awkward. I love visual novels*. The asterisk means that there is an exception. I don’t like kinetic novels, those games where there is barely any gameplay.

I love reading stories in games. Games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Another Code, Time Hollow, and Corpse Party are just a few examples of games I really like to play. These games are very rare and I rarely come across them. But, when I find them, these games I always finish.

So, yeah. I think I read a maximum of one book per year. And in most cases, these are books related to my education or a game series I really like. Yet, I adore story-heavy games and I love writing stories myself.

7. What things do you do to relax?

Besides playing games, I really love writing. For some reason, it helps me to zone out. When I was younger, I always wanted to create content or improve already existing content. After experimenting with creating videos, music, art and various other things… I finally settled on writing.

So, other things I really like doing are watching anime. I really like anime since it feels nostalgic but always new and fresh. Also, the storylines in anime just appeal more to me than western series.

Another thing I do to relax is to experiment with virtual machines or computers. Just trying to find little tricks and tips to fix computers really interests me. I find that I learn the most when I was able to experiment or find it out myself.

Let’s not forget about my theater group. I really enjoy being up on stage and playing a role to entertain an audience. It’s quite a lot of work in studying lines and during rehearsals but it’s oh so gratifying when you get the applause when everything comes together.

On rare occasions, I really like exploring cities. It’s really fun to do. Just take a train to a city and explore. Don’t prepare yourself. Besides the opening hours of some places, you want to visit. But, just explore the city. I have discovered so many places that way.

8. What inspired you to start blogging?

I have told this story various times before. I don’t have a large family, but we have a lot of family friends. So, I got tired of telling each story five or six times each family party. Or answering the same questions again and again: “How is school?” or “How is it going with such and such?”. So, that’s why I decided to make a website and share these stories on a personal site. I wrote my articles in my native language back then, which is Dutch. Well… it’s Flemish. But Flemish and Dutch are like American and British English. Quite similar but not the same.

At first, I shared it with Facebook but not too long after, I got visitors that found my blog over Google. One summer week when nothing special was happening I decided to write a game review. And I got hooked.

I decided to remove the Dutch blog, but I still missed writing. So, back in 2013, I decided to start writing in English after I played the reboot of Tomb Raider.

Besides that, I have been writing since my childhood. I just love writing and creating stories. As I said earlier, I’m not that good at creating art or music; so I settled on writing.

9. What is one of your favorite articles that you have written?

I have been writing for 8 years on my blog so picking one of my favorites is quite difficult to do. I enjoy writing to each and every article a lot. It’s fun thinking and reflecting on the gaming industry.

But, if I have to choose it’s my Zelda project I did last year. Just the fact that I was able to work along with all these other bloggers and that two of those bloggers started the Final Fantasy project in the style I did my Zelda project… well, it’s humbling.

This year I’m following it up with the Tomb Raider project, which I’m quite excited about. We are trying to aim for the release in October.

10. What is your favorite part about blogging?

The moment when it all comes together. When I’m able to write and don’t need to interrupt myself with looking something up or thinking about how I formulate a certain sentence.

But, something I love doing more is the interaction with readers and developers. Yeah, the PR stuff. I write this gaming blog for two reasons. The first reason is to have some sort of log/diary of my gaming life.

My 2nd reason is to talk about games that I want to talk about. Certain games I play don’t get a lot of attention and I want to change that. Thanks to that, I got the chance to play various games that have unique experiences.

It surprises me every time that developers actually want to know my opinion or what I would change in a game. It’s quite an honor and I enjoy playing the beta versions of these games and giving them feedback to improve their game. And I enjoy playing these games months or years later to see what the finished product is.

11. What is one piece of advice you would give to other bloggers?

Well, I have been blogging for 8 years so I could give various points of advice. But something I think is very important is, get yourself a place to write down notes that’s handy to take along and is easy to manage.

I use a built-in note app on my tablet. It’s easy to sort and when I’m looking for certain notes about a game, I can easily find them. It’s a godsend. Since you never know when inspiration will strike.

My 11 nominations

Drakulus – I really like the style of content he puts out. He is a great reviewer and always gives his honest opinion. Check him out.

SheikahPlate – A very tasty gaming blog run by an outstanding woman!

TriformTrinity – This guy creates amazing content. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

LaterLevels – Always a joy to read and maybe level up… 😉

I Played The Game! – Thanks again for helping me defeat those theft bots earlier this year. You are a great guy and write pretty nice stuff.

LividLightning – I’m so glad that you are back. I really love your stuff.

KillerRobotics – The support this guy gives to bloggers like us is heartwarming. He also creates very interesting content for tech people so give it a read!

FalconGameReviews – Reading his blog wants me to spend a whole afternoon browsing his website. Good stuff man.

OverThinkerY – I don’t need to overthink this to nominate this blog!

AdventureRules – The charm and art on your blog are lovely as is the writing and blogging collabs you organize!

The Well-Red Mage – Hey my magey friend! Keep rocking on!

AmbiGamingCorner – What are you doing? Go and read AmbiGamingCorner, this is a must-read site!

And there are many others I would love to nominate but I already cheated with 12 bloggers here… Sorry to everybody else.

My 11 questions

  1. At what point do you decide a certain game is good enough to write an article about?
  2. How would you describe your own writing style?
  3. About what would you want to write if you weren’t allowed to write about games for a year?
  4. Would you wait on the DLC release of a game before you review the game or do you review the DLC later?
  5. What inspires you to come up with ideas for articles and/or events?
  6. How do you write? Do you create a draft first or just start writing? Do you write while listening to music?
  7. Do you have hobbies and/or activities you do outside writing/gaming?
  8. What game(s) are underrated or not well known enough in your opinion?
  9. Are there genres you don’t like reviewing and why?
  10. Would you consider writing/blogging as a job?
  11. What you dislike doing the most when writing or publishing an article?

Closing words

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this since I really enjoy writing Q&A’s like this. If you ever have a question for me, feel free to contact me on Twitter or my contact page. I love answering them.

Receiving community awards like these are quite a lot of fun. The fact that your peers recognize you is such a humbling feeling. But, I’m also quite surprised by the amount of traffic my blog is getting the past few months. It’s a big motivation for me to continue in what I’m doing and I hope you keep enjoying the content I’m writing. So, with that, I hope I’ll be able to welcome you in another article but until then have a great rest of your day and take care.