A list of 10 games I’m looking forward to play in 2023

Let’s continue my yearly tradition with a 2nd top 10 list at this time of year. After my top 10 games of 2022 list, let’s take a look at the games I’m looking forward to playing in 2023. Now, for this list I only focused on games that are releasing in this year. Since, it would be insane if I’m able to predict which retro games I’m going to play this year and I don’t want to force myself to play certain retro games in a year. Also, creating this list is a great way to keep up with more recent releases. In this list, I’m taking a look in no real order at 10 games I’d love to play in this year. And I’m also curious what you all think of my list. Did I miss any games or do you agree with the games on here? Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions.

#10 – The Legend of Zelda – Tears Of The Kingdom (Switch – May 12th)

In last year’s list, I talked about how I’m a big Zelda fan. How I miss the top-down 2D Zelda games, but how Breath of the Wild grew on me.

As expected somewhat, this game didn’t get a 2022 release but is getting a mid 2023 release. In the middle of May, I shall be able to play Tears of the Kingdom on the Nintendo Switch.

I’m trying to avoid reading too many articles about it and ignore all other trailers then the ones I have seen in Nintendo Directs. Since I want to be surprised as much as I can while playing this game.

I’m really curious to see what they are going to do with this title… Will they continue more the trend from Breath of the Wild or if they bring more old school Zelda gameplay back, like longer and more in-depth dungeons? I just hope that there are a lot of new area’s to explore, and this sequel isn’t an “expansion” / “DLC” for the original game.

#9 – Fire Emblem Engage (Switch – January 20th)

Later this month, a new Fire Emblem game is coming out on Nintendo Switch. While I own a handful of Fire Emblem games, I haven’t beaten any Fire Emblem game. Yet, I still have a lot of fun playing these games.

I can’t really explain why, but when I saw the trailer for this game… I got really interested in this title. Because I felt that there are features that are really going to help me. For example, there is a training mode for the characters. So, I can grind up the characters if I can’t pass a difficult battle.

Also, we can create our own battle maps and share them online. This game has a sort of Fire Emblem Maker lite in the game! The trailer and the additional “Welcome to Somniel” video really sold me on the game.

Like Fire Emblem Three Houses, there is more to do outside of battles and that’s something I’m really looking forward too. And who knows, maybe this game will get me interested in playing all those Fire Emblem games in my collection that I still have to finish.

#8 – Spirit Hunter: Death Mark II (Also known as: Shinigami: Shibito Magire) (Multi-platform – Fall 2023)

Five years ago, I gave Death Mark a chance. A horror visual novel where you have to fight spirits to save your own life… Oh, count me in. The game was created by a small Japanese indie team called Experience Inc.

To my surprise, later the next year we got a sequel to that game called Spirit Hunter – NG. Both were amazing games and I replayed them last year to prepare myself for the 3rd upcoming game.

This game started development with a crowdfunding campaign in Japan. And for a long while, it was unsure if this game was going to come to the west. But, thankfully, we got confirmation that this game is coming to the west in the Fall. Most likely, we are going to see the 3rd entry in the Spirit Hunter franchise around Halloween. That’s my guess at least. And you can bet on it that I’m going to review this game on my blog when I have beaten it.

This game is going to play somewhat different compared to the first two games, but I simply can’t wait to experience it. It’s going to be interesting, and I’m so glad to see that this game series is getting the recognition it deserves.

#7 – Tintin Reporter: Cigars of the Pharaoh (Multi-platform – 2023)

For those who don’t know, I live in Belgium. A famous comic book hero from Belgium is also Tintin. In Dutch, we actually call him after his hairstyle. Kuifje is his Dutch name. So, when I learned that there is a game in the works about him, I bookmarked the website for a release date.

This game looks right up my alley. An adventure, puzzle game set in Egypt and various other places that also promises to be faithful to the original material. I simply can’t wait. The only thing I’m a bit disappointed about is that this game isn’t going to be translated into Dutch. But, then again… It’s going to be translated into French, which is the original language of Tintin anyway.

I just hope to see a release date in the near future. Since, I want to play this game and with the release date, I can fit it in my schedule for sure.

#6 – Suikoden 1 & 2 HD Remaster Gate Rune and Dunan Unification Wars (Multi-platform – 2023)

After I played Suikoden Tierkreis on the Nintendo DS, I always wanted to play the other entries in the series. But getting a copy of the games is pretty expensive on eBay for my tastes.

Now, an HD remaster of the first two games is going to be released this year and I can’t wait to give the original two games a try. Are they as good as the DS game or are they going to show their age? In any case, this is a wait and see thing.

Who knows how this remaster is going to turn out. But one thing is for sure, I’m going to give it a shot. Since, two JRPG’s in one package? Count me in!

#5 – Alan Wake II (Multi-platform – 2023)

Is it a surprise that Alan Wake, a series about an author whose horror story comes to life, is a series near and dear to me? As a blogger who enjoys writing stories himself from time to time…

In any case, after 13 years, we are finally seeing a sequel to Alan Wake. Of course, we got American Nightmare, but that game was more of a glorified DLC since it contained idea’s and a story that they wanted to implement in the original game.

There isn’t too much known yet about this game, so I’m afraid that this game might be a 2024 release… But who knows? Maybe this game has been in development longer than we think, and the game is going to be released this year. So, let’s see what Remedy has cooked up since I want to see what happens to Alan next.

#4 – Tales of Symphonia Remastered (Multi-platform – February 17th)

I enjoy watching YouTube quite a lot. I watch quite a lot of content on YouTube. Something I adore watching are gaming channels who have their own gaming review shows like Caddicarus, NitroRad, Austin Eruption amongst various others.

So, I have heard about the Tales series from them quite a lot. One of the games I really wanted to try from that series after playing Tales of Vesperia is Tales of Symphonia. And now I have the chance to play it without having to hunt down a copy.

I’m really curious to see if that this game is going to pull me into the Tales series. Since, after playing Tales of Vesperia… I just might. And maybe, after playing the game, I’m going to hunt down the spin-off sequel to this game on the Nintendo Wii and play through that. Oh dear, it might already be starting. But let’s first wait and see if I enjoy Tales of Symphania enough to want to continue the story since my free time is rather limited, and I don’t want to spend it on games I don’t enjoy.

#3 – Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition (Multi-platform – Early 2023)

If we list all the big influential shooters from the ’90’s, it would be a crime if Rise of the Triad isn’t on there. You have DOOM, Quake and Duke Nukem as other examples of course.

But, early this year we are getting a remastered version of this game with new and restored content. Rise of the Triad is a shooter that’s on my backlog for quite a while and with this remaster I have the best excuse to jump into the game.

It’s coming out SOON(tm), so I know what to do. Refresh the page every so often to see if the “buy now” button is there. I’m so ready to make them EAT LEAD and burry them in my LUNCHBOX.

#2 – Minecraft Legends (Multi-platform – Spring 2023)

This game is being developed by Mojang and BlackBird Interactive. Now, why is this so important to mention? Well, BlackBird Interactive is a studio founded by former Relic Entertainment employees. Also, BlackBird Interactive is well known for their RTS HomeWorld.

So, that means that this game is going to be some sort of Action RTS game set in the Minecraft universe which is going to provide some additional lore to the series.

One of my favorite genres is RTS games. I’m not good at them, but I love playing them. So, I’m quite curious to see how an action RTS game in the Minecraft universe is going to look like. And how it’s going to set itself apart from the other spin-off Minecraft Dungeons.

From what I have seen in the trailers, it also reminds me a bit of the Overlord games. Yes, the one where you have to gather up minions for your tasks. And that makes me simply more excited. Since, I have played through the Overlord games and those had some amazing gameplay. So, in Spring of this year, I’m going to fight the Nether and save the overworld.

#1 – Master Detective Archives: Rain Code (Switch – Spring 2023)

When you watch the trailer of this game, it’s quite obvious that the people from Danganronpa are behind this game. The music, the gameplay… It all feels like a sort of Danganronpa 4. Surprisingly, this game is going to be a Switch exclusive.

I honestly can’t hide my hype for this game. I wouldn’t be surprised that this game is going to turn up as a review on my blog and maybe even in my top 10 games of the year. Yeah, I’m so excited about this game.

It’s even written by the writer of Danganronpa and the music is composed by the same composer. It’s almost like it’s the introduction of the next trilogy by the developers of Danganronpa and I hope it becomes as big as Danganronpa. Since, the idea’s behind shown in the trailer are a naturual evolution of the Danganronpa formula and gameplay.

But, I’m trying to keep my hype in check. So, that I’m not overhyped and that I don’t have unrealistic expectations of this game. Since, it’s a new IP and we have to wait for it to come out first. Let’s not judge this book by it’s cover too fast, while it’s pretty difficult to not do so.

Conclusion

There are a lot of games coming out in 2023, I simply can’t wait to play. I had to honestly stop myself from looking on schedulded games lists because I fear I’ll run my wallet dry.

Games like Octopath Traveler 2, the port of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, Fatal Frame: Mask of Lunar Eclipse, System Shock remake, Pikmin 4, Slime Rancher 2, The Settlers: New Allies… Man, it’s going to be a great year for gaming. The only big annoying thing is that we don’t have a release date for a lot of them. The list of “To Be Announced” is so long.

Which is a good and bad thing. Since, that means that there is no date set in stone yet and developers can create a polished title instead of rushing it and bringing us a buggy or unfinished mess.

Sadly, 2023 is going to be a busy year for me because a lot of personal things are going to happen. But, I’m totally looking forward to the upcoming year. I have a lot of games to look forward too and I have a lot of games I want to review on my blog. Also, I have a few things planned in terms of live streams with my friends and speedrunning as well. So, if you want to keep up-to-date with me, I highly recommend to follow my Twitter where I post updates when I’m going to publish an article or when I’m taking a break. Or when I just want to share something short with you all.

Anyways, the year has already started and I’m so ready to get into this year. It’s time to play some games from my backlog and start writing on some games. But, I’m going to wrap up this article with my usual outro. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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Game Quicky: Snow Problem (PC – Steam) ~ Sorting The Snow

Steam store page

It’s winter. So, that means that snow is falling. Snow is something you can’t stop and that might cause a problem. But, not in this game. In this game, the concern is that we need a certain amount of colored snow to beat the level before the time limit is up. This game is created by Dave Seaman from whom I reviewed games in the past. He was the developer behind The Rat Pack and Captain Disaster in: Death Has A Million Stomping Boots. Is the 3rd game I’m going to review from him a recommendation or is it one where he swings a miss. Let’s find out together in this Game Quicky article. For full disclosure, the developer provided me with a press key to play this game, but you may rest assured that you’ll get my 100% honest opinion on this game. And as usual, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Let’s save the snow

This game is the perfect easy to understand game. This game is perfect for small sessions when you have a bit of time to kill. The levels in this game are short and easy to understand, so it has that one more round mentality.

The controls are extremely easy. You basically only need the mouse to control this game. While there are keyboard shortcuts for the menu, the game is played with the mouse. It’s a little finicky at first to know at what speed you need to draw the lines, since the faster you go… The more holes there are in your line.

The biggest challenge in this game is to know where and how to draw your lines. Since, momentum is still a thing, so you really need to be careful so that you don’t screw yourself over by drawing a bad line. That’s why on the store page the developer recommends playing with a mouse… Since, this game with a trackpad, auwch. I tried it, and it wasn’t so much fun anymore.

To get used to the game, I highly recommend that you put the prep time to the highest setting in the main menu. The game can be pretty challenging and turn into a trail and error puzzle game, but the short prep time is really irritating if you aren’t used to the game. But, if you want more challenge, you can switch the difficulty easily by changing the prep timer.

A lot of the music in this game is famous classical music and, while I would have loved some original pieces by the developer as well, they fit the game perfectly. There are various tracks which play randomly in the background. It’s almost like you have your favorite music app playing a playlist in the background. Maybe it would be fun if the name of the track shows up somewhere and there is a sort of mini-player. But, that’s possibly a bit of a wild idea.

There is also a level editor in this game. So, that means you can share self created levels with other players. There is no Steam Workshop integration, but if that ever comes it would be nuts. But, the level files are small and easy to share… And the developer invites you to share your levels with him and who knows, they might be added as bonus levels in a future update.

Now, if you are unsure about this game… There is even a demo out of this game. So, you can easily try it before you decide to buy this game for the low price of 4€. You can also bring your progress of the demo to the full game which is an amazing feature.

There are also adorable punny Steam achievements in this game. They are extremely easy to get, but the pun filled nature really adds to the charm of this game.

Something I really like is how you don’t need to play all the levels in order. I really dislike the 21st level. I have tried various times to beat it, but I’m unable to. But, since you always have a handful of levels unlocked, you can just skip that level and keep it for later. You also unlock the next levels so, you don’t have to worry that one level will block you from seeing the rest of the game.

But not all is good in this game, sadly, I do have a few things to criticize.

Let the snow melt

There are a few minor issues in this game. First, there isn’t a safe way to alt-tab out of the game. Usually, when you use alt-tab OR the Windows key to go back to the desktop, you can quickly look something up on the internet and return to the game. Not in this game, since when you re-open it… The resolution goes off, and all color is drained. I had this issue on three laptops I tested this game on. So, be careful if you alt-tab.

But, that’s a minor point. Since the levels are rather short and the game opening so fast, it’s easy to recover from that. Something that I do find a bit disappointing is that there is no pause feature during gameplay or a speed-up feature. Several times I was tapping my fingers on my desk because I knew I was going to beat the level, but I had to wait until it had played out.

Something I’d personally change is that the “how to play” is something that appears before you play your first level. While the gameplay is pretty simple, it didn’t click for me right away. It was easy to figure out after a bit of messing around, but I find it strange that this game has a sort of tutorial but hides it in the main menu.

Which brings me to something else, and it’s something I also have a solution for. This game doesn’t have a colorblind mode. And this is a big issue in this game since this game is highly based on color. One solution is to drastically change the colors OR use different shapes somehow. Like squares that aren’t filled or triangles. Or a 3rd solution is that you can see the color of the snowflake when you hover over it… But, that might not be too handy in the short levels. Now that I think about it, I think drastically changing the colors when somebody enables colorblind mode would be the best solution.

A minor thing I’d love to see changed as well is that after the prep timer ran out and the snow starts falling, that timer turns into a timer that shows for how long the snow will fall. While you have a little more time than there is snow falling, it would just be an additional touch on the game.

Something I have to bring up in the negatives is that this game can be repetitive for some people. That’s because this game only has “one” mechanic. You can only draw those brown lines to try to guide the snow to the spot you want too. I have a few ideas for other mechanics like having to draw those colored lines yourself OR having weight switches to open another path. And wouldn’t it be cool if there were levels where you have to avoid ANY snow from reaching the bottom? There is a lot more that can be done with this game and maybe food for thought for a sequel or spin-off? Or maybe DLC?

The final nitpick I have is, that ALT+F4 isn’t working. Only the assigned keys in the menu’s are working and that can throw you off when you forget about that. I got used to it, but it was a bit annoying sometimes when I accidentally alt-tab’ed out of the game to write this article and I had to force shutdown the game via task manager.

The final suggestion I’d give is that in the main menu… It would be amazing to see a small level preview pop-up when you hover over the level. It would be handy if you want to let your friends try a level without you having to click through all the levels you think that it is.

And with that said, I think it’s high time I wrap up this article. So, in conclusion…

But, what’s the snow quality

Overall, this is a very charming and relaxing game. While it has some rough edges, I think it’s honestly worth it’s €4 price tag. This game is the perfect time waster to waste a few minutes. It can be addictive as well. The game is easy to understand, and it has that “one more try” and “one more level” atmosphere to it.

There are a lot more things that can be done with this game, like more mechanics to spice up the puzzles but like I said in the article. But, the basis of an amazing charming little puzzle game is here. I’d recommend it to everybody who enjoys puzzle and/or casual games. Since, this might be right up your alley. It’s also perfect for to get into gaming in the first place.

I think this will be a game I’ll boot up once in a while to beat a few levels and move on. Especially, when my other games are downloading updates for example. Or I’d boot it up when I want to wind down. Since, I felt very relaxed while playing this game.

Snow Problem is another game by Dave Seaman with a lot of charm I had a blast playing. I’m really glad that the developer asked me to play this game since otherwise I might have just written it off as a silly little game, but under the hood you have a nice relaxing puzzle game.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it. 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: 7,5/10

The Top 10 Games NekoJonez played in 2022.

It’s that time of year once again. The year is coming to a close, and it’s time to look back at what I played in 2022. This year has been an extremely busy year for me and that’s why I didn’t write as many articles this year as I usually do. Also, I started spring-cleaning on my blog and working on things behind the scenes to make my blog even better. Besides playing “new” games, I have been focusing as well on finishing unfinished games and also improving my speedrunning records. Anyway, before I forget to mention this… My top 10 games of the year list is special. In this list I talk about the games I enjoyed playing through the year, and it doesn’t matter if they were released this year or earlier. The only thing that matter is that I started playing it this year for this first time. Otherwise, it doesn’t count. That way I’m sure I can talk about ten new games every time at the end of the year. It’s both to challenge myself and to make the article more interesting for you to read since you never know which games will appear on here. So, what’s your top 10, and what do you think of my list? Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions. And yes, this is my personal list, so yours’ll be different.

#10 – Wolfenstein – A New Order (PC ~ Steam) (May 2014)

Sometimes, all that I need is a good shooter that’s just fun to play. The new Wolfenstein games were on my backlog for so long and this year I decided to give it a go. And I’m so glad I did. The new Wolfenstein games are amazing to play and are what I’m looking for in a shooter.

While a military shooter like a Call of Duty can be a lot of fun as well… I do like games like Wolfenstein or Outlaws, where the gameplay is more than shooting alone. I love exploring the environment and solving puzzles. And that’s something I sometimes miss in more modern shooter games. It’s almost always going from one shooting room to the next.

Something I adore in this game as well is the “what if” scenario and how the game embraces its weirdness without a second thought. I mean, the machines and everything that the Nazi’s are using in this game are just silly.

It’s a game that gave me a breath of fresh air and showed me again that I don’t need to play the newest and latest games to enjoy myself. Even a game I skipped 8 years ago can be a lot of fun to blast through then a game released a week ago. Now, I still have to finish the game… Maybe another round after writing this article won’t hurt?

#9 – Powerslave Exhumed (PC ~ Steam) (February 2022)

A second shooter on my top ten games of the year list? Well, yes, my friend. And in this shooter, we visit Ancient Egypt to fight our way to victory. And on top of that, it also has great puzzles and is just a real blast to play.

Lately, I don’t always have the time to find the right retro game for me, so when a remake/remaster or a modern port gets released… Yeah, I have the perfect excuse to play “retro” games. One thing I really like in this game is the fact that in terms of health and ammo, there are only two pick-ups. One for your health, and one for your ammo. But, not all guns drain the same ammo pool. So, when picking up ammo, you have to be careful to have the right gun equipped.

This game is an amazing balancing act between an old school 3D shooter, puzzle game and strategy game. The Egyptian setting is more than just set dressing. You really go through old temples of gods and pharaohs like it’s almost real. I always get the feeling that I’m Indiana Jones running around in these tombs trying to find the next artifact to progress in the story.

The only thing I dislike about this game is that when you put it down for a while, it’s a bit unclear what the next level is. Thankfully, you can get a hint when you go through the intro level again… But, this could have been handled a bit better. But, overall, that’s a nitpick about an amazing game I can’t wait to find more time for. So, I can finish it and put it out of my backlog and finally give it a full review on my blog.

#8 – Gas Station Simulator (PC ~ Steam) (September 2021)

My review

So, if you had told me a few years ago that a simulation game about gas stations was going to be in my top ten games of the year list… I mostly likely declare you crazy.

Yet, here we are. Gas Station Simulator gets the number 8 spot in my 2022 list. Simply because it was the perfect wind down game for me.

While I wrote my review, the big performance enhancing patch hadn’t dropped. But, now that it did, and some additional features were added, the game is even more fun. I’m oh so curious what the developers have in store for the next patches and DLC, but that’s something that we shall see next year. I’m mostly curious on how they are going to combine the other games they have announced to work together. Games working together is something I have only seen in The Legend of Zelda – Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons and I found it really underused back then. Now, I hope they didn’t bite off more than they can chew… But, that’s something we’ll find out when it’s released, most likely. But for now, I have seen the first great stepping stones for an amazing tycoon universe. Here is to hope they don’t overcomplicate it!

I also wrote a review about it, so if you want my opinion… Feel free to check out my review. But know that it was written before the big preformance patches.

#7 – The Last of Us Remastered (PS4) (July 2014)

I’m such a big fan of the Tomb Raider & Indiana Jones games… I just love a big adventure game where you go from place to place, to find an ancient artifact. Now, we have confirmation that a new Tomb Raider game AND a new Indiana Jones game is in the works. But when will they release? We don’t really know yet. We don’t even know on which platform(s) they will release.

Now, with that kind of intro… You’d expect an Uncharted game to fill this spot. But, no. It’s another amazing series from the same developers. The Last of Us surprised me in many ways. It scratched that itch of exploring a world, trying to survive and find a way forward.

While I’m not too big on zombie or infection stories, I’m so happy that this game doesn’t focus too much on your cliché things that those stories usually focus on. Expect, you get a game about a bond between two people in an apocalyptic world.

Currently, I’m quite close to the end of the game. There is this one section I can’t get passed, but one of these days I’ll. And then, I can start working on the review for this game. But, the fact that I’m almost done with the first game makes me a bit sad since it’s such a nice experience to go through. But, I think I’m going to save my full opinion on this game for when I eventually review this game.

#6 – Coromon (Switch) (March 2022)

My article

I totally understand that 2D Pokémon games are something from the past. But, I still miss them. So, when I started playing Coromon… I got such a nostalgic wave over me.

Finally, I was able to play a totally new Pokémon-ish adventure in the style of my childhood with more modern things.

On top of that, I was blown away by the unique mechanics in this game. Also, the unique puzzles and style of this game made me appreciate this game even more.

I really think that this is one of the better indie games I have played all year, and I can’t wait to see what the developer of this game does next. But, maybe I should take a look at Coromon in a few months, since in various articles the developers said there might be new content added via patches. So yeah, if you want to know what I think about this game… I have written a nice review of the game and I highly recommend you check it out.

#5 – Silent Hill 3 (PS2) (May 2003)

In February, I’m turning 30 years old. And in the past years, a lot of people recommended the Silent Hill franchise to me. Currently, I only own the first 4 Silent Hill games and Homecoming. In 2018, I gave Silent Hill 4 a chance. Yet, it was so close to getting a spot in my top ten games of the year list.

Now, I do enjoy playing horror games once in a while and while I have been more “distracted” by games like Fatal Frame and Resident Evil, this year I finally gave Silent Hill 3 a chance. And man, I’m so glad I did.

Silent Hill 3 is one of those games that is exactly what I’m looking for lately. A horror game that’s less focused on combat but more on puzzles and world building. Something I really love is how there are different difficulty modes for the actual game and the riddles in some Silent Hill games and this is one of them. So, you can tune the game to how you want. Do you want to a more combat-focused run or a brain teaser… Or both? That’s totally up to the player. And best of all, these difficulties don’t gatekeep endings.

Anyways, I still have a lot to play and go through before I can even write a first impression of this game. But, I’m so glad that I’m giving this game a chance. I can’t wait to see how this game is going to impress me next or what twists and turns it will take. And because of that, it gets a well-deserved fifth place on my top ten games of 2022 list.

#4 – AI – The Somnium Files: Nirvana Initiative (Switch) (June 2022)

My review

Kotaro Uchikoshi is one of my favorite game directors. He is one of the minds behind the Zero Escape series. A series I love and still quote to this day.

After the Zero Escape trilogy, Kotaro started work on his next big project which is the AI: The Somnium Files series. And this year, we got the 2nd game in the series, the Nirvana Iniative.

While this game isn’t as strong as the original game, it’s still an amazing game. I felt that this sequel played it a bit too safe in certain areas. But, maybe I’m judging it too harshly because I loved the first game so much. Like how fans of the game always expect something bigger and better then the first game for a sequel but are then angry if it’s too different or not different enough.

Something that did this game also no real favors is that the first game’s story had no real loose ends. So, what could a sequel build on apart from throwing in a lot of new characters? Surprisingly, this game also re-uses some of the background characters of the first game and gives them more depth.

I might expected a bit more for this sequel, but it’s an excellent game in its own right. It also has a built-in spoiler filter to avoid players who start with this game, to not spoil the original game. So, that’s something I love to see in these kinds of games. Especially since there isn’t anything in title to indicate that this game is a sequel.

#3 – Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (Switch) (December 2021)

I remember that at the end of 2015, I started the Bioshock trilogy. And then, in 2016, I played Bioshock Infinite. And the final part of that trilogy was such an amazing part of the trilogy, it even scored a spot as my most favorite game of that year.

Late 2021, I started playing the Danganronpa games. Last year, the original Danganronpa scored game of the year for me. And this year, I played two Danganronpa games. I have only played the start of Another Episode, but I have finished the amazing 3rd entry in the series in January.

Apart from some major slowdown issues in some parts, this game is fantastic. Explaining why would ruin so much of the story. Let me just say, it’s a worthy ending of an amazing series that I didn’t want to end just like the Zero Escape series.

So, thank you Kazutaka Kodaka and your team for creating this amazing franchise and porting it over to the Nintendo Switch. I heard so much about it and always wanted to try the whole series and now that I finished the original trilogy, I have to say that if you enjoy the Zero Escape series, these games are a must play. Now, to finish the two spin off games and I’m … finished … with the series. Wait.

#2 – Persona 5 Royal (PS4) (October 2019)

This year, I tracked down a PSVita and a PS4 Pro. Mostly, because there were various exclusive titles for those systems I wanted to try and play. One of those was Persona 5 Royal. So, I buy a second hand PS4 Pro just before the summer and I buy myself a copy of Persona 5 Royal… Not knowing that in a port of Persona 5 Royal released in October of this year. But, that’s totally beside the point. It’s easy to judge ourselves in the future for actions in the past.

I expected to enjoy Persona 5, since I already bonded with the characters in Persona 5 Strikers last year. But something that I didn’t expect is how Persona 5 made me fall in love with the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series. After beating Persona 5 and close to beating the extra chapter, I went onto a spree playing various other Persona and Shin Megami Tensei games in my collection.

But, Persona 5 really clicked with me. This game was my summer jam. While I bought a whole load of other games that summer for my PS4, I always went back to Persona 5. I don’t want to know how many hours I already spent in my two playthroughs of the game. Especially, since this game is over 100 hours long.

Yeah, not joking about that. This game is anything but short. You’ll get your money worth out of it and then some. I especially love going through the game after I have beaten the story to try and unlock even more and see everything. Since, it’s close to impossible to see everything on your first playthrough unless you have a great guide and you aren’t playing this game casually.

The big issue is that I’m still looking for an angle to review this game. But, I have a feeling that in 2023… A Persona 5 Royal review will appear on my blog, where I can take you more in depth on my thoughts and opinions on this gem of a game. Since, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoy JRPG games. This should be a must play.

Honorable mentions

It would be weird if I only played ten new games this year or if all the other new games I played this year weren’t in the running for this list. So, here are the honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut this year. All of them are amazing games, but for one reason or another… They didn’t make the cut for this list. Also, if a game I played and isn’t on these honorable mentions list, it’s by no means a bad game. I have to limit it somewhere.

Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch), Soul Hackers 2 (PS4), Pokémon Scarlet & Violet (Switch), Pokémon Arcues (Switch), Danganronpa – Another Episode (PC ~ Steam), House Flipper (PC ~ Steam), Sherlock Holmes – Crimes & Punishments (XBOX360), YuruKill (PS4), Turok (PC ~ Steam), Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe (Switch), Evil Within (XBOX360), Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux (3DS), Mary Skelter: Nightmares (PSVita), Uncharted – The Lost Legacy (PSVita), Kirby and the Forgotten Lands (Switch)

#1 – Desperados III (PC ~ Steam) (June 2020)

My review

When I finished this game, I was left in awe. Desperados was one of my favorite childhood games but I found it a bit too difficult sometimes.

While Desperados III had some moments where I almost pulled my hair out, I kept sticking with it. The quick save and load feature of this game is a godsend. While, this feature was in the previous games as well, I felt that the implementation in this game is just perfect.

Also, the unique mechanics in this 3rd gem of a game are fantastic. No more endless bullets to corridor shoot down the enemies. You have to be wise and use all items and mechanics at your disposal. Something that’s tested more in depth in the additional challenges you can do.

I can talk for quite a while about this game. While writing my article about this game, I had a real hard time coming up with negatives for the game. Apart from some big difficulty spikes, this game made me want to play even more Desperados. I’m so planning to replay this game next year to try and improve my score and try to do some of the harder achievements.

Also, I still have the original games to play through. I find them too difficult as a kid and maybe with my current skillset these games might be a bit easier and maybe I’m able to finish them. In any case, Desperados III is an amazing game that I kept playing on and off this past year and a game I didn’t want to beat. Since, I knew that I wanted to keep playing it and discover new maps, new content and new things. But everything must have an end, even this year. And I’m glad that Desperados III, the gem of a game, was in my 2022.

Conclusion

2022 is a beast of a year for me. To be brutally honest, I’m so happy that the year is almost over. The amount of things that were packed into this year were simply a bit nuts. A lot of amazing things happened like me getting a fixed contract for my current job which is my dream job…

But, a lot of other things happened in my private life as well. Sometimes I really had to do a balancing act to stay on top of things. Sometimes I wasn’t even able to write for my blog or do other things. But hey, a lot of things are coming to their conclusion and 2023 has a lot of amazing things to look forward too.

But something that’s surprising to me is that, even with the drastic drop in amount of articles this year, I still grew a slight bit in 2022. Yes, the amount of views/visitors in 2021 was 7,3K and now I’m getting close to 9,5K. After so many years in the blogging world, I still enjoy being a part of it and with the plans I have for the upcoming year, I can’t wait.

I just hope that next year, I have more time for writing and my blog since I really missed that this year as my creative outlet. If you want to stay on top of things, I recommend that you follow me on my Twitter. I post the latest updates on there and I also post on there if I’m doing something else like spending time on my speedruns of Indiana Jones, streaming with friends or other things like that.

Besides all that, I still saw a lot of amazing games this year and as usual… It was far from easy to put this list for me together. I have moved games so much around and there are a lot of amazing titles that aren’t on this list. For some strange reason, I’m always afraid that I’m replaying too many games instead of playing new games and that the list is way too small. But, I’m always surprised at the amount of games that are on my list each and every year.

I’m quite curious to see what you all think about my list. And with this being one of the final articles for this year, I want to wish you all an amazing new year and with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this year for now. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day/year and take care.

First Impression: We Who Are About To Die (PC – Steam) ~ It’s But A Flesh Wound.

Steam store pageOfficial website

Usually, I try to avoid writing about early access games. Especially when they are still in development. Because, you never know if my article and review is still going to be relevant down the line. But, this time I’m making an exception. A while ago, I got a press key for ‘We who are about to die’ from the solo developer of this game. The solo developer is actually a fellow Belgian and created this project out of passion. So, as a Belgian hobbyist blogger I feel I have to write an article about his game. Although, I got a press key to review this game you don’t have to worry. When I go into the arena to battle this game, you as the crowd will get my 100% honest opinion on this game. Now that the countdown is starting, and I’m readying myself to enter the arena… I hope you as the audience for this article tell your opinion/thoughts on this game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. So, let’s go and start the match!

Editorial note: the review version of this game is the first publically released version after the beta versions of this game. (Early Access v0.1)

A story discussion

In this game you play as a starting Roman gladiator who is trying to raise through the ranks. In general, there isn’t really a story in this game. This game more focuses on the gameplay and it’s mechanics. Depending on what you enjoy in games, this can be a positive or a negative. Personally, I’d have like a bit more world building with a small intro or something. There are several mechanics like the four hosts who remain a bit “faceless” because they don’t have a backstory at all in the game. Now, the backstory of your own fighter is created on your battles. That works a bit like Rogue Legacy, where you can create bonus traits on your previous runs.

At the other hand, I can understand that there is no real story in this game since now the game is more open and anything can happen. We can create the story and lore ourselves, which gives the game a more sandbox-y feel. This can help with immersion into the game. Now, because certain mechanics in this game… I think it would be hard to create a story of any kind for this game and the characters.

Maybe the only thing that I’d love to see in the future in the game is a bit more historical backstory in the game. What I mean by that is that, this game uses the terms like Aspirant. But, what is an aspirant? Some history lessons would be a nice touch to this game.

So, what do you actually do in this game? The idea of this game is that you play through various battles to build up your fame and budget. With the fame and budget you can acquire various things like new gear or bonus buffs. But, a stronger character doesn’t mean a guaranteed victory. In one of my runs, I did a 5 vs 1 match and my team of 5 was beaten by that one dude since he used a strong morning star that was tricky to block.

This game is somewhat unpredictable, because there is a lot of randomness involved, you have to decide if using your hard-earned cash and fame is worth it to heal or get better gear or better save it for another roll. But do you risk waiting? Since, you might not survive the next battle and the money passed on to your next character is only a fraction of it.

Let’s please the crowd

Trying to describe the genre of this game is one of the harder things to do. Part of the core gameplay is a fighting game. In the arena, you have to fight and win the battle. Depending on your performance, you may have multipliers for your gold and fame. But, if you please the crowd by making nice hits and not hitting your teammates, the crowd throws additional weapons and gear that might win you the match. I’ll talk more about the fighting mechanics later in the article.

This game is also a strategy RPG. Since, you have to strategically uses your resources to improve the gear and stats of your character. Also, the more you use a certain weapon, the more damage you do with it. So, you have to take that into account since you won’t be using the same weapon and gear throughout your run. Using your gear efficiently is key to survival in this game. I lost one run because I forgot to repair my shield and I got cornered with my enemies, and I was unable to get a shield that the crowd threw onto the battlefield.

Earlier in this article, I already talked about the randomness in this game. So, this game is also part roguelike. Due to the rougelike elements in this game… the game becomes a huge balancing act. This game isn’t the easiest out there, but it’s forgiving in a way. It’s easy to get back into the action with a new character and to build him up. But, since the new character has different stats and perks, the gameplay is new and fresh.

If I had to place this game in a certain genre, I’d say that it’s a sort of action simulation game about gladiatorial combat. Since trying to put it in a better category would be a nightmare.

Now, let’s circle back to the combat system. This combat system isn’t your typical combat system. The best way to explain part of the combat system is the following: image that the main controls of the fighting system is the Wii remote. This game doesn’t have mention controls but the idea behind it isn’t too far off. To swing your weapon, you have to left-click and swipe your mouse into the direction you want to hit. The strength of your swipe also influences the strength of the attack. Also, when you right-click to defend, the location of your shield or weapon depends on how you swing your mouse.

There are a lot of different layers to the movement and combat that make the combat feel janky and unpolished, but it’s the entire idea behind this game. Since, you can interrupt and attack and decide to throw your weapon or shield to the enemy instead. The combat system might need some more iterations for it to feel perfect, but it’s a unique system. It may put some people off playing this game, but I find that it adds to the charm of this game. Since now the game is a bit more newcomer friendly towards people who don’t play a lot of fighting games. You don’t have to remember a lot of combos for strong attacks, you need to learn how these directional attacks work and how to use them in your favor.

This brings me onto the point of the controls of this game. The starting tutorial explains the mechanics you can use in this game quite well. The only tutorial that can use some better wording is the tutorial on how throwing weapons work. It took me a while before I was able to get throwing weapons to work consistently. Now, it’s a bit funny how the wording in the Aspirant Trainer is better than the actual tutorial. This Aspirant Trainer is a great way to quickly check your abilities in the pause menu, when you are unsure how a certain mechanic works. A very minor UI complaint is that when you click the “?” mark outside of battle, is that clicking on it again doesn’t close the explainations. You have to “approve” it on an empty part of the screen.

A great piece of advice, stay in the tutorial area as long as you need to. Get used to all the mechanics and little quirks of this game, since unless you reset your whole character and everything, you are unable to return there. And trying to learn the mechanics on the battlefield is anything but a good idea.

The current gameplay loop is as follows. You start first on the battle preparation screen where you can decide to heal, get new armor, bribe enemies… Here you make the most difficult choices since a few bad mistakes might cost you your character. When you are finished preparing your character, you choose a battle to praticipate in and fight. This can be a 1vs1, 1 vs many and many vs many.

Overall, fights are short. Most fights are done in 5 to 7 minutes. Currently, there are only 12 out of the 14 planned arena’s in the game but every arena feels unique and has it’s own additional challenges and quirks. Like one has wooden panels you can hide behind and another has a central elevated stage. Depending on your preformance in that battle, you get fame and coins for winning the battle. Loosing the battle, will mean you have to start over with a new character but you can pass a few things on, especially money.

Your goal is to buy your freedom from being an aspirant. Basically, an aspirant is a prisonner in acient Rome that’s fighting for his freedom. These goals is extremely steep and aren’t easy to achieve. Don’t expect to get it with the first few characters unless you are very good in these type of games. The difficulty in this game is a bit unforgiving. But, it has that “just one more run” mentality written over it. That “I’m going to get it this time” phrase is one I said often. And then, I’m out of glory to re-roll the fights I can enter and I get fights I know I can’t win… And then I win one by the skin of my teeth.

I’m quite curious what the other gameplay types and modes are going to be. Those who you can see on the roadmap of this game.

This game is the excellent game for one or two quick rounds and can is even fun for longer play sessions. The balance of between being not repetitive and repetitive is small but currently the game is balacing on it just fine. Especially, since you have to fight with different weapons and a unique battle system that is so much fun once it clicks.

For seven years?!

This game has been under development for seven years. Most of it is done by Jordy Lakiere, and it’s really impressive. For example, the amount of detail in the visuals is mind-blowing. The game looks wonderful and runs extremely well. In the options’ menu, you can set your max frame rate to 60FPS or 120FPS, and let me tell you that this game runs extremely smooth. My gaming desktop is getting rather old, but I didn’t have any big frame drops or lag in this game.

The effects and animations used in this game are also superb. There are a lot of weapons & shield combinations, and they all have unique animations. Something I really like is how the game slows down when you are going to make a strong hit or about to kill an enemy. Sometimes the blood animations might be a bit overboard, but then again… It feels quite rewarding when you kill that one annoying enemy with that big shield that’s blocking all your attacks since the start of the match.

The only minor complaint I have about the visual presentation is that in team battles, it’s a bit unclear sometimes who is on your team and who isn’t. This issue is mostly present in nighttime arenas where visibility is lower or when the other fighters aren’t wearing a lot of armor. Due to your teammates following you, I sometimes mistook my allies for enemies. And that negatively impacts your rewards. But on the other hand, it can be a balancing thing.

In terms of audiovisual presentation, the game is also pretty good. The music is a joy to listen too but the sound effects and sound design really adds to the atmosphere. There are a few things I’d improve on. First, I’d change the sound effect when you don’t have enough gold to purchase an item to a more “error-y” sound effect. It’s a bit “basic” and didn’t communicate the message always. Maybe add a little visual animation as well instead of only a message in the left corner.

Secondly, I think the sound effects of the weapons breaking and/or throwing should be polished up. Quite often when I was playing a character with a spear, I didn’t realize I have thrown my weapon. I feel that those sound effects get a bit too lost into the gameplay and doesn’t communicate with the player enough when you are unarmed.

And finally, I feel like the pause menu should have music as well. Since, it’s quiet, and I find that a bit boring. It could also be a great sound test when you are in the options’ menu.

Something I really like is how this game has an in-game menu to report bugs. It’s easy to use and helps the developer to quickly gather bug reports and things that the players don’t like.

Speaking of which, here are a few things I’d change and/or improve:

  • You can only see the week you are on, on the battle select screen. Why not show it over the whole screen?
  • The music doesn’t “follow up” with each other. Sometimes there is a silence gap when one track fades out and another one fades in.
  • What is “mouse X” and “mouse Y” in the keybind menu? Is that moving up and down / moving left & right? And how would you rebind that?
  • Make it easier to compare stats of armor. Since, sometimes I had to write things down or take a quick screenshot.
  • Buying an item is only possibly when you click on the icon. It also only shows the stats when you hover over it. Why not the whole box?
  • Why not have items of different status like Legendary have a special color around the icon box? It’d be easy to swap things around from your storage to your character.
  • During the game, I’d change the option in the pause menu of “Save & Quit” to “Save & Quit to main menu”. Since, that’s what happens. You don’t quit the game.

Most of those are polishing suggestions. Now, the roadmap promises more gamemodes and more things that can happen… which is all fine and amazing to look forward too. But I hope to developer doesn’t forget that sometimes it’s not about the amount of content but about the quality of the content. That’s what I sometimes forget when writing as well. I sometimes forget to make sure I still enjoy writing and write good and informative articles instead of trying to push out one a week to have more articles.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time while playing this game. I took me a battle or two to “get used” to the game but then the game hooked me. If you enjoy action simulation games or just want to try something different… This game is excellent. The game is also still in development, so more content is going to come in the future. The game is also fairly priced at 22€ here in Belgium and with the amount of polish and content there is already here, it’s a steal. The developer is also very open in his communication. I mean, look at this massive thread about the received feedback and what he is going to do with it moving forward. So, the fact he is talking about addressing a lot of the current feedback in the first patch(es), is amazing.

I think I may revisit this game on my blog after a while, when there are more patches out to see how the game evolved. Since, this is a game to keep your eye on. I’m so glad that Jordy reached out to me to try his game since it’s a real indie gem and I can’t wait to see what he is going to do next with it.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. This amazing gem of a passion project game that’s worth your time if you enjoy action fighting games with unique mechanics. 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: In Retrospect (PC – Steam) ~ Automatic Mario

Steam store page

What if, in retrospect, Mario was supposed to be moving on his own? Well, that’s a perfect line to open this article about “In Retrospect”, a runner game developed by Paper Salamander about reflecting on the past. The developer send me a press code for this review, but don’t worry, you’ll get my unfiltered 100% honest opinion on this game. Also, this review is going to be rather short to avoid spoilers, especially because the game is roughly 2 hours long. But, is it worth your time, or should you skip this game outright? Well, let’s find out in this game quicky review while I invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts/opinions on this game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

The good memories

It’s kind of difficult to talk about the story of this game. Especially since this game is a sort of “choose your own adventure” style of game. This game is a sort of self reflection game, without it being a forced self reflection game. The way how the story is handled in this game is wonderful.

The way how certain game mechanics like resetting a level is implemented into the story, it’s charming. As charming as the visuals. The pixel art is extremely well done and makes the game burst with personality.

This game is also excellent at teaching the ropes. Most new mechanics are taught in a sort of safe tutorial level just before the actual level. And, you can skip this tutorial level when you are playing through this game for a second time on another difficulty level.

Usually, I’m not too fond of runner games since I don’t have the best of reflexes when it comes to timing things with the music. Yet, I didn’t find this game too difficult. It was easily to learn the basics of this game and play through it. I played a bit on casual and normal and the balance in this game is really well done.

Besides the story, there are also challenges you can partake in. These are small bonus levels with a special gimmick. You have to reach the highest scores to get on the global leaderboards. Personally, this isn’t really my cup of tea, but it’s an extremely nice addition to the game and I find that it works really well.

The music for this game is pretty good. The tracks are right up my alley, and they really fit the atmosphere of this game like a glove. If the developer ever offers the soundtrack of this game as DLC, I’d buy it right away. Since I want to add the soundtrack to several of my playlists.

The gameplay of this game is really simple but fun. This game is an autorunner, which means your main concern is dodging the enemies and obstacles. During the level, you can pick up items. These items can restore your health. Depending on your answers to the questions you get in between the levels, one pick-up might be more beneficial than the others.

Also, the mechanics slightly change depending on the path you choose. But, if this sounds interesting, I’m going to leave that as a surprise for you to find out! I’m leaving out some mechanics of course, but each level has its own special gimmick or “thing” and I love it. It works wonders in such a short game and really feels like the developer placed a lot of passion in the level design.

The bad memories

There are some things I don’t think work that well. The first thing I want to talk about are the default controls. Overall, the controls are quite responsive, but I think the hover mechanic could have been implemented differently. Quite often I forgot that this game was an automatic runner and I had my hand on the right arrow. Now, when you jump and hold right arrow, you hover in place. This is something that frustrated me during my playthrough.

So, I had to get use to only press the space bar for jumping since this game is an autorunner. But, why is it then that in the options’ menu under controls we have a listing for “directional – arrow keys”. You can’t turn back in this game and only the right arrow is used for hovering. And the up arrow to activate switches, or down arrow when you are running on the ceiling. Which is never really explained in a tutorial in the version I played. But the fact that the down arrow is used for ground pounding is explained in a tutorial level.

Also, you can only choose between WASD & the arrow keys for this movement. This personally bums me out for two reasons. As an AZERTY user, I find it strange that ZQSD isn’t recognized by this game. Also, it would make more sense in my opinion if you were able to find the mechanics to your own keys, so the controls are easier to learn and master for everybody.

A minor complaint I have about the game is that the time you have to reply to questions is just a bit too fast. I barely have any time to read the four answers before I have to decide. On top of that, it’s not always too clear on what the question is. Personally, I think this could have been polished up a bit more.

A second minor complaint I have is that you don’t get a level select after beating the story. It would have been quite fun to be able to play a level with the gimmicks you enjoyed after finishing the story.

Overall, I barely found any bugs in this game… Apart from one. The achievement system is somewhat broken in the version I played. In v1.0.2, the achievements only show up after I have closed the game. You get a small text box instead of the actual achievement pop-up that Steam games usually gives. But, this might be my third minor complaint too… The reason I mention it here is that the amount of pop-ups is a bit ridiculous after you close the game since there are close to 100 achievements in this game.

The truth

Now, is this game worth your 4 bucks? In my honest opinion, if you enjoy casual runner games, yes. This game might be rather short, but it has some unique mechanics that make each level fresh and enjoyable to play.

The biggest issue in this game is with the arrow (or WASD) controls and not being able to rebind them to the keys you want. Apart from that, my complaints about this game are rather minor.

This game is perfect if you have to spend an afternoon, and you are waiting for a big game to download. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome or get repetitive. This game is walking the fine line of too short and too long and I find it’s balancing perfectly.

Now that my article is writing, I think I’m going for another run since I want to finish the challenges and finally unlock the final challenge. If you are interested in autorunners or casual games, I think this game might be right up your alley. I’m glad that I was able to play this game and that the developer reached out to me. This game gets a personal recommendation from me.

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

Score: 80/100

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 2 – Babylon

In May and July, I have written about how the speedrun of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine for the GBC works. I wrote about the Any % route and the All Treasures route of the first level Canyonlands. Today, I want to take you on a journey to the second level Babylon. So far, we are following the levels of the N64 and PC version. But later in the game, we’ll have some differences. Anyways, before I get right into talking about the route, I want to mention that I’ll be talking certain terms and techniques that I have explained in the previous articles. If something is unclear, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts/opinions on this article! Anyways, let’s get right into it… Here I go explaining the route of the second level.

A small update

I have a few announcements to make. The first announcement is that two weeks after I published my write-up on the All Treasures route of Canyonlands, I decided to run the level again. With the possible time saves I have talked about in the article. And wouldn’t you know it, I have lowered the record from 4 minutes 41 seconds to 4 minutes and 36 seconds. Yup, I lowered the record by 5 seconds. I’m convinced that with a bit better movement and a bit more luck with RNG, the record might even go lower.

The second announcement is that all GBC categories are currently filled. What I mean by that is, that each category has at least one run. The only category that didn’t have a run was the full 100% run of the game. Where all treasures were picked up, almost all healing items (and sold) to play the full game including the secret level Return to Peru.

This run is stressful and not a lot of fun to do. Since, one or two mistakes in a level can cost you the whole level and in certain levels that can be a major time loss. In my run, I made a lot of mistakes, and I’m convinced it can get lowered, but that’s not for today. After trying for over three months, I finally got a run that I felt happy with, that made it to the end. And to my surprise, the end time was only ~25 minutes longer than my All Treasures run without Peru. The run took me 2 hours, 25 minutes and 56 seconds.

The final announcement is that I lowered a few other records. I lowered the time on Palawan Volcano and Infernal Machine. But, I’ll go more in detail about that when I get to the write-up of those levels.

With that said, here are the current stats of the second level.

Link to Speedrun.com page (All Treasures)Link to Speedrun.com page (Any %)
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by:

for Any %: the_kovic who ran this level in 4 minutes and 19 seconds on January 29th 2022.
for All Treasures: me who ran this level in 6 minutes and 44 seconds on February 28th 2022. (Note, my ILS is part of my All Treasures – No Peru record. That’s why the video time is so different.)

Editorial note: when I haven’t given credit to screenshots, it’s taken from my runs.

ILS = Individual Level Speedrun. A speedrun of only one level.

Good to know: when I talk about a “two block gap” or “a tile”… the size of a tile is give or take half Indy’s sprite.

The route

You would think that the route is quite different in the two categories due to the almost 2 minutes and a half-time difference between the two. But, let me assure you, that’s not true. The route is almost the same but only some differences that add up some time on the clock. So, I’ll mention these “side paths” in cursive when the time comes. So, the cursive text is something additional for the All Treasures route. Text in cursive should be skipped and ignored when you go for the Any % route.

The first 30 seconds of the level is the exact same for both categories. As soon as the level starts, you’ll have to mash “A” to get the text box out of the way and move to the right.

Run from the_Kovic
Run for the_Kovic

You’ll quickly reach a part of the structure where you can jump on. Jump on top of the lower brick and try to stay at the right edge of it while moving up. Here is a screenshot from the_Kovic’s run that has amazing positioning.

The reason that you have to be as close to the right edge as possible is that it saves a few frames on the jump to the right you’ll have to do when on the top.

Also, the_Kovic also discovered during making the TAS of the Any% of this game… That when you are on the edge of a block, the actual edge… You can make jumps further and higher than you expect. This’ll come in handy in the next screen. So, after the jump to the right, you’ll have to do some jumping up a “staircase” to exit the screen.

Run from the_Kovic

When you enter the next screen, it’s important that you land on the block that’s sticking out. The reason is that otherwise, you’ll lose a lot of health. Health that you’ll need later in the level.

Granted, there is a herb really close by but grabbing that herb in Any% is out of the way and makes you lose more time than landing on the block. If you are certain of your abilities, this block can be skipped when you go for the All Treasures route, but the time gain is as good as lost with picking up the herb. So, yeah. I usually try to avoid taking damage here.

Now, next is moving towards that movable brown block. In the current world record by the_Kovic, he actually lost time. Remember how I talked about the discovery he made during the creation of the TAS? Well, you can make two gap jumps and land one block higher when you jump from the edge of the block. It’s something you can see in action in my All Treasures run at the 6 minutes mark.

Sadly, this is quite a precise trick and being able to do it saves ~ 2 to 3 seconds. Yet, failing it… Well, let’s say it can cost you ~ 5 or even more seconds. Depending on if you move the block or not. This jump can be implemented in more spots, but it’s not too beginner-friendly. Since, the edge of the block almost looks like Indy isn’t touching the block anymore at all.

Anyway, after you made this jump you’ll have to jump on the building. Be careful when you jump since almost the whole back tile is blocked by a wall. So, don’t jump too early. When you land on the building, a small cutscene plays with a door opening. And here is where the first route difference happens. After the cutscene, you’ll have two options.

The blue arrow points to the all treasures route and the red arrow to the Any % route. Now, this door goes to a location where you only pick up one treasure and only has one entrance and exit. So, after picking up that treasure, you’ll have to jump on the building again and continue with the Any % route.

Now, let’s pick up our first treasure. To enter the door, you can either drop and run or jump from the block.

Jumping is a few frames difference since jumping is a tad bit faster compared to first having the dropping down animation. Anyhow, it can also be a mental thing… It feels faster to me. Now that we entered the room, we have to do something that I always call… Dancing with the guard. The treasure is in the top left corner of the room. In the top right, a guard spawns. This guard is annoying and can decide if you lose time or not.

The fastest way to get the first treasure is going to the bottom of the tent and picking up the treasure, like the purple line shows. Now, the faster you do this, the less far down the guard goes. If the guard is at the position from the screenshot, you are safe to leave in the exact same way you came. Otherwise, you’ll have to go around via the top of the tent and lure the guard a bit away from the exit. Since, his hit box otherwise blocks the exit if you take the bottom route. Going via the top route looses a second but is safer. Also, if you lost too much health, don’t take the herb from the other screen… There will be a herb that’s a bit later you can grab that’s less of a time loss. Now, take the route with the red arrow before the cursive text began.

So, when you jumped over the gap and moved down to the next screen. Here, you’ll enter a room with two treasures and this room is a pain for the All Treasures %. But, for the Any %, you’ll have to just drop in the water… Or when you know the right spot, jump into the water to save a few frames.

Now, picking up these treasures is a pain in the behind. It doesn’t matter to which way you jump first. But it matters from where. The safest is jumping from inside the purple squares. The best thing that can happen when you jump wrong is that you hit the wall. The worst thing that can happen when you jump wrong is that you drop into the water, and you’ll have to go around to get another chance. And that time loss, is way too high when you want to beat the ILS. This can only be a back-up strat in full game runs. In any case, after picking up the two gems, drop down in the water, so we follow the Any% route again.

After dropping into the water, you’ll have to swim up. Now, for the all treasures route of this level, you’ll have to make a small detour. The quickest way to exit the water for the Any% route is like the black arrow, hugging all the way to the left. For the All Treasures route, let’s go with the red arrow. You’ll enter the same room but for the all treasures route, swimming all the way to the right avoids one scorpion to pick up the treasure. Also, there is a herb in the middle of the path. Something good to know is that this herb also cures poison stings.

So, let’s pick up our fourth treasure. For this treasure, you’ll have to avoid some scorpions in narrow hallways. After exiting the water, go up right away until you hit the well and then go to the left. You’ll find a blue gem. Be careful with jumping to avoid the scorpions on your way back to the other side of the wall where you picked up the blue gem… Since, jumping too far means, back into the water with you.

When exiting the water following the black arrow, avoid the sting when going up and exit the screen via the left exit. When you are following the All Treasure route of this level, the room you enter in might look familiar. It’s on top of the room with the tent where the first treasure is picked up. When you missed picking up the second and/or third treasure… Those gems, you can drop down here to get another shot.

Depending on how good your lines are, you won’t loose too much health in this screen. Go around the bend and jump on the ladder when there is one tile between you and that will make Indy grab almost the top of the ladder. After climbing up, go left right away, with a bit of luck, the guard won’t shoot you. After that, go down when you can’t go left anymore. But don’t hug the right most edge of the pathway down since the screen transition to the next screen won’t happen.

In the next screen, go to the left and drop down in the section without the guard. To get to the next screen, run on the left most line of the sand. Walking on the tiles won’t transition you to the next screen. On the next screen, hug the left wall and when it bends to the left, go left as well all the while hugging the wall. Now, you’ll come into an open area.

Let’s go a bit to the right to pick up the treasure we saw when entering this screen. When you jump up the block via the right edge to reach the right edge of the platform… You’ll be able to grab the golden coins without the guard being alerted.

Now, go left a tiny bit to enter the door. You’ll enter a small room with a lever. Try to flip the lever as early as you can. This’ll open a bigger door to the left. Exit the room and go to the left to the newly opened door. Now, it’s time to dodge some guards. Also, don’t get distracted but this is one of the few rooms where you’ll notice some slowdown, it looks like this room isn’t optimized and in the long corridor, you’ll notice it… If you don’t hug the wall that is.

In this office space, there are three guards. Now, not taking damage here is almost impossible. So, dodge and weave boys. Go up, go left (don’t forget to pick up the treasure in the first office room, to the left) and go down. Go to the right. Now, in the one to last room, you’ll see a David Star with a hint to solve a block puzzle later. Since we are speedrunning, we shall ignore going into that room since the solution is easy and will be shown later in the article.

When you go up after the room, you’ll see the last guard. If you lost too much health, feel free to pick up the herb. If you have at least half your health, you are safe to continue. Shoot the two barrels so they explore and you can continue to the next screen.

The way forward is quite clear, it’s going down. This will make Indy drop down into a pool of water and now we get to the water maze. The biggest reason why there is such a big time difference between the Any % route and the All Treausures.

Now, allow me to me to use a diagram from the walkthrough by Jeff H. to explain the next parts. The red line is how the fast way in the underwater maze is. Always hug the walls, since that saves frames. Also, there is a small mistake in the diagram. The part before the last bend is a bit higher than shown on the diagram. Don’t waste too much time, since it’s a thight squeeze otherwise. When you go for the all treasures route, do pick up the first treasure in the first swim. After picking up treasure one, exit the water maze and let the breath meter fill before you go to pick up treasure two. This additional swim is one of the biggest reasons for the time difference. We have collected 8 treasures now. Be careful to not press A too soon to pick up the treasures, since Indy’ll swing his machette and this is a small timeloss.

After exiting the water maze, you’ll notice two pressure plates to the edges of the room. First go for the left one and then for the right one. This’ll activate an elevator down in a small cutscene. Then, from the right switch, go up to hit another pressure plate. Hit this switch three times by going on it and off it and on it again. The faster you do this, the more time you save. Then, press the pressure plate one of the left also three times for a small door opening cutscene. Enter that door.

Now, you will enter the room with the David Star where you saw the clue earlier. Move the right block to the most bottom spot on the star. Move the left block to the second spot if when counting anti-clockwise. A door should open. A visual aid:

We are almost at the end of this level. Let’s pick up some tablets. Now, remember this moment for a bit later in the article. Go to the left right away to find a small platform with a yellow L looking thing on it. This is one of the four tablets you’ll need to finish this level.

The red circle in the screenshot is where the tablet was. Now, the next jumps are a bit tricky if you aren’t too used to diagonal jumps in this game. Of course, in the all treasure route, we pick up the treasure. Doing this jump to the ladder saves some climbing time. And like I explained in the Canyonlands write-up, climbing in this game is extremely slow.

When you reach the top of this ladder, you’ll see another L-tablet. Of course, pick that up. Then use your whip to reach the platform to the right. On that platform, pick up the tablet and use your whip to go to the right again to go pick up the final clay tablet.

Now, on the last platform, there is an extremely tricky ladder snipe you can do. The ladder at the bottom is extremely close and it’s extremely easy to over or undershoot it. Feel free to try it since it save a few seconds, but missing the snipe means game over. I usually play it safe and jump across the gap on the right to slide down. This is one of the main reasons why I said you’ll need some health, since if you keep pressing down to go faster on this slide down, you’ll take a considerable amount of damage.

The next step is exiting the room. Now, remember that moment when I said to remember that moment? Well, if you know this room well and practice it… You’ll be able to finish this room in 45 – 50 seconds. The most annoying bit is the whip part since if you aren’t at the right spot, Indy swings his whip in the air and this is the biggest possible time loss in this room. Also, don’t forget that the SELECT button swaps faster between your inventory than actually going in it. The clay tablets don’t appear while using SELECT.

So, now you will need to head to the elevator you activated earlier. Activate the elevator by pressing A whilst having the hand icon at the bottom. This room is the final room of the level. Don’t forget to pick up the final treasure. Since, you won’t be able to pick it up as soon as you place the final tablet! I usually pick it up before doing anything else in this room.

You’ll see a cog and something that looks like a button/switch. Go stand right in front of it, facing it. Open your inventory and select the cog item. This will open the location where you need to place your four tablets you picked up.

Now, when you face the tablet placing spot… Keep calm whilst navigating the inventory. Know that the cursor goes a bit slower then when you press or hold it. The amount of time I lost by doing horrible inventory navigation, it isn’t funny anymore. After placing the 4th and final tablet, a map will be revealed and the end of the level jingle will play.

Wrapping up

This is one of the levels I rarely have trouble with. While I did make some silly movement mistakes in my All Treasures ILS, I did have the route down. I think I can shave off at least 5 to 10 seconds with a lot better movement.

Also, the current Any % world record can be beaten when the at the start, the block isn’t pulled to get on the building and the ladder snipe at the end is implemented. It would bring the record a down by a few seconds. But, you’ll need to play the level close to perfect to beat it. I tried it once and I thought I got it, but due to a bad jump, a bad lever flip to open the office area and no ladder snipe, I lost too much time.

Both records are close to fully optimized. Like I said earlier, my All Treasures has some bad movement and the_Kovic’s Any% doens’t have all tricks implemented. But, you’ll need to practice to be able to beat the times. Unless, there is something I’m overlooking or a new strategy is found or route optimization.

The biggest thing of this level is that it’s a longer level to run sandwiched between three shorter levels. Especially for the Any% runs. I mean, Canyonlands is beaten in a few seconds, and the two next levels can be beaten in give or take 2 minutes. Actually, think about it, the comment doesn’t really count if you go for the All Treasures route.

Anyways, that was the write-up for Babylon. It would be a bit silly to create two parts for this level since almost all treasures are on the Any% route or a bit besides it. But, it made for an amasuing article to write and I hope to read as well. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Gas Station Simulator (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Fill ’em Up

Steam storeOfficial Twitter

Sometimes, a game just piques my interest. When I saw a game called Gas Station Simulator, I directly wondered… how is this going to work? Especially since we are talking about a gas station in the middle of nowhere. So is this title worthy of your time, or should you skip it? Or maybe wait until it’s more developed? Well, in this article you’ll find my thoughts and opinions on this game. Feel free to leave your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Let’s fill ’em up

In this game, you’ll play as an unnamed character who bought up an old gas station in the desert along a busy road. It’s your goal to bring back this station to its former glory. Your shady uncle is here to help you via the telephone.

When you arrive at the station, it’s in disrepair. There is not only trash everywhere, all the walls need a new lick of paint, the store attached to the gas station is totally gone and so on and so forth. With step by step missions, this game teaches all the different mechanics to you. These missions are a tutorial in disguise, but it doesn’t hold your hand. You are free to complete the objectives in any order you want, and you are also free to choose when you go to the next objective. Of course, you won’t be able to upgrade your gas station to the next level without completing all required missions.

Now, if you would play this game only to complete the missions, this game is rather short. It took me around 10-ish hours to beat all missions. Yet, there is more to this game after you have beaten all the missions. There are a lot of upgrades you can purchase to enhance the environment of the gas station. Most of them, but not all, are cosmetic in nature and don’t do anything to attract more customers.

Currently, there is a cheap DLC called Can’t Touch This out for this game. Personally, I recommend buying this DLC as well. Since it not only adds a small bit of post game, but it also adds a lot of new options to customize the look and feel of your gas station, and it’s totally worth it’s price.

This game also has achievements. At the moment of writing, this game has 91 achievements. Currently, I have played this game for give or take 25 hours and I have 80% of the achievements. Most of these achievements are easy to get. Others are a bit trickier to get and require either some luck or some practice. Especially the carting mini-game, to get that achievement you’ll have to become very good. Sadly, those cart controls don’t work for me. But, I’ll talk about the controls later.

Usually, in the first section of a review I talk about the story, the characters, and voice acting. Overall, the story is nothing special. It takes a backseat pretty quickly, and it’s mostly an excuse to string the missions together in a coherent way. Which is for this game a good thing, since it ups the replay value of this game.

Now, I want to talk about the voice acting in this game. Overall, the voice acting is decent, but I do have some things that I’d like to critique. I have nothing to remark on the performance of the voice actors. It sounds pretty good. But, the amount of voice lines is just lacking and plays in strange places. It doesn’t take long before you hear the same voice line over and over again. In addition to that, some voice lines play in situations where they don’t fit at all. For example, I heard a customer shout in the store when the register mini-game failed… “Look what you did to my car!”. I mean, how can a check-out in a store do that?

On top of that, I find it a missed opportunity that some situations don’t have voice acting at all. Your staff doesn’t have any voice acting. Also, as soon as customers step in their car, they have lost their voice as well. So, you’ll never hear a driver shouting to another driver to move. Also, you’ll never hear a customer shout when they aren’t being served.

These things break the atmosphere of the game a bit. It’d give the game a bit more life and immersion when customers only said the appropriate lines in the correct places and the staff would also talk. For example, a simple “Understood” or “On it, boss” when giving them assignments would go a long way.

Let’s play the balance game

So, what’s the gameplay in this game? Well, in the end there are few things your gas station has when you have completed all the missions. Each area has its own little mini-game that’s quick to get the hang of and has its own challenges.

The first is a place to fuel. In this place, you’ll have to fuel the cars of your customers. In this mini-game you have to press the left mouse button until the gauge reaches a certain level. The closer you stop pressing the left mouse button to the ordered amount, the better you get paid.

The second area that will unlock is the store. The mini-game in there is you have to scan all the items of the customer, while keeping the belt clean. As soon as an item either leaves the mini-game area OR drops in the basket without being scanned, you’ll lose that customer when you scanned all their items.

The next area that unlocks is the garage. In there, you’ll have to repair cars. The more you upgrade your garage, the more defects can be fixed with their own little steps. The garage is something you shouldn’t ignore since at the end of the game, this is the biggest source of revenue.

The final thing that unlocks is the car wash. This is a manual car wash where the mini-game is as simple as spraying the car down with water and remove as much of the dirt you can. All in all, this is quite late game and honestly, I leave it closed.

Here are a few examples of things you’ll have to do while serving customers. These are: managing your staff, making sure everything is clean, and the roads are drive-able, making sure you don’t run out of stock for the fuel tank/the garage or the store, unloading deliveries… Honestly, as soon as you get into the micromanaging of it all, you don’t have the time to keep open the car wash. If only you could put your staff to work to unload deliveries or to stock the store/garage OR even do the car wash…

And when you think, that’s all… No, there is the reputation mechanic as well. As soon as you complete a mini-game successfully, you’ll get a few reputation points that can upgrade your popularity level. The higher that level is, the better upgrades you can purchase. But, when you fail a mini-game, you’ll get negative points, and you’ll need to earn them again. There are also optional missions for bonus reputation points after you completed the story missions.

To be honest, it can become overwhelming quite quickly. Especially when you unlocked all area’s. This is why I’m so happy you can close the car wash, and you can enable/disable certain random events in the options’ menu. Don’t want to have to deal with Dennis, who vandalizes your walls? You can turn him off. Don’t want to have to deal with the rush hour party bus? You can turn that off as well. Don’t want to make sure you close your warehouse to avoid stealing? That’s something you can turn off as well. The late game challenge missions are something else.

And the final thing you can turn off, and something I turned off is the sandstorm event. This is a random event that ruin your roads and make them not drive-able and create a pile up. This is a big problem since there is only a certain amount of cars that can be present in your gas station. You can solve this issue with your excavator, but the controls for that are quite tough to control in my opinion. You also have to be extremely precise in order to scoop up the sand, and you can’t dump it anywhere else besides a sandpit at the edge of your station. It’s a mechanic that breaks the flow of the game for me, so I turned it off.

I’m convinced that while talking about all the different area’s your station will have at the end… I forgot to talk about a few mechanics. But overall, this game is a balancing act. You have to juggle various tasks to make sure your gas station runs smoothly, so you don’t have to loan money from uncle. It’s something you can do, but you’ll have a time limit to pay him back. “Or else, Uncle has other ways to earn his money back.”

The reason I can’t tell you what the consequence is, is because it’s extremely easy to pay uncle back when you use it wisely. I never had any moment where I was in trouble of not being able to pay uncle. I mostly used his loan when I was low on stock for the garage and after repairing a few cars, I was able to pay him back easily.

Now, let’s talk about decoration. First, the painting. You can paint your gas station. But, I honestly feel that this mechanic doesn’t work too great. The mini-game to stay in the green area of a slowly rotating circle is annoying and boring and there is no way to cancel when you selected the wrong color. There is also no way to paint the selling in the building itself. You can only paint the roof. Oh, and when you install additional bathrooms, forget painting them. Since, you are unable to enter those. Which is annoying, since the paint decays in this game, so you’ll have to reapply paint after a while and it’s so frustrating to see the dirty paint back there without being able to get there.

In general, all spots are quite easy to reach apart from a few spots in the storage area and the garage. The spots in the storage area are just a bit to reach and the spots in the garage are blocked because the tire rack is in the way and the game thinks you want to fill the tire rack.

Also, you can order a paint job, but this is something I did once and regretted right away. Since, I had a color scheme I got used to and this paint job paints almost everything white. It’d be so much more useful if the color you put on the wall is remembered and for example, for some additional charge that color is applied.

To be honest, I haven’t played too much with the decoration mechanics. I find the default gas station more then enjoyable to play with and first I want to be able to purchase all other decorations before creating a totally new store.

Running out of gas?

This game is being developed by a small indie game studio from Poland called Drago Entertainment. A few days ago, they shared an update on their plans for the rest of the year. Now, why do I talk about this in a review on one of their games. Because they are talking about new features coming to this game in the future and how everything works behind the scenes.

It’s quite clear that the developers are extremely passionate and find communication with their players important. Over the summer break, they also shared what the next update to this game will have. Something I really love to see is there is going to be a patch for the random crashes this game has. In the late game, this game can crash quite often at random moments. There are some work arounds that delay the crashing but at the moment, apart from waiting for the patch, no real fix has been found. Also, you’ll be able to open and close other sections of the gas station. This is something I was going to talk about in this section. I’m quite curious to see how the game preforms when update #7 lands, since it promises to fix the biggest problem I have with this game and that are the random crashes.

Visually, this game look quite good overall. You do see certain models a lot of times but it doesn’t bother me. I think something that might help is randomize the color of the clothing of your customers. Then, when you have the same model coming in, there is a bit more variaty. The animations of this game are great as well.

But, there are a few minor things in terms of the UI that I’d love to see changed. The first is a small one. Why is the default option when you open the main menu, “new game”? I can understand that for when it’s the first time you play the game, but when you reboot the game after a crash and mash a bit… It’s scary to see the game restarting.

And secondly, it’s a mix between a gameplay problem and UI problem. The car wash is extremely picky. Sometimes a car is done with a lot of dirt on it and sometimes you have to clean almost everything. A sort of meter on how statified the customer is would help a lot.

The soundtrack of this game is good. It fits the atmosphere of you working in a gas station in the American desert quite well. The only downside is that there aren’t a lot of tracks so it won’t take long before you hear repeats. In terms of the music, I like and dislike how they handeld it. In the buildings, it’s played from the radio. But, if you put the radio in the store in a corner, it’s possible that, that area is silent. In terms of sound effects, this game is perfect. I don’t have any complaints or even (nitpicky) remarks about them.

Apart from the random crashes, this game runs overall quite stable. But, there are a lot of glitchy moments where things mess up. I have seen flipped delivery trucks on route to the station. I have also seen trash bags glitching through the floor into the void. The physics can go haywire sometimes. Jumping into the side of a car can send it flying or moving in some crazy ways.

Thankfully, the game has a sort of reset button for when cars get flipped or get stuck and you are unable to get them unstuck. You can send an alien craft over your station and reset it all. But, do keep in mind that it also sends your staff into rest mode so, you’ll have to reassign their job.

Speaking about staff and jobs, I truly wish you could manage that a bit more. I’d love to see shedules or commands like: “When you are done resting, go to the garage and fix cars.” Then again, it’d ruin a bit of the challenge of this game micromanaging it all.

Overall, the controls are quite responsive and easy to learn. You can also rebind them if needed. Since, at first, this game thought I had an QWERTY keyboard lay-out but I’m from Belgium and we use AZERTY around here.

I do have to say that reviewing games that still get new updates with new features and bug fixes is quite tricky. Especially, since I don’t know to what degree I can talk about the glitches in this game. There are glitches in this game and most of them are either the physics engine doing strange things are characters doing strange floating stuff. Or talking about limiting mechanics like only being able to have a loan of 1K. We never know what will change in the future. So, maybe some points I talked about in this review will be irrelevant in the future. Like, how tricky it is to restock shelves sometimes. The amount of times I took stock from shelves by accident when trying to refill, it’s silly.

But, something I’m totally looking forward too is that in the upcoming days a new DLC for the 1 year anniversairy of the game will come out. And looking at the store page, it’ll be a free DLC. I’m quite curious to see what’s going to be in it!

The final thing I want to talk about is that this game has an autosave. You can’t set the interval of it but every few minutes, this game autosaves. But you can also manually save. The saving and loading in this game is really quick. You do have some minor texture popping when the game loads in for the first time but it fixes itself quite fast.

Now, with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this one up.

Wrapping up

The bad:

-Still have some polishing up to do.

-Some mechanics like painting need an overhaul

-Silent staff

-The random crashes

The good:

+ Enjoyable micromanagement simulation.

+ A lot of freedom in terms of customization.

+ Amazing replay value.

+ Easy to learn but tricky to master.

+ A lot of post game.

+ Gets new content and bug fixes often.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Gas Station Simulator is one of those games that I’d recommend without any doubt in my mind. This game is quite enjoyable to play for everybody who enjoys simulation games that are a bit more hands on instead of your “spreadsheet simulator” where you stare mostly at stats.

While this game isn’t perfect and still needs some polishing and expanding for certain mechanics… The postives outweigh the negatives here by a lot. The biggest issue at the moment of writing are the random crashes but if the promised upcoming update fixes those, I think that this game can shine even brighter.

This game has an amazing foundation to become an amazing indie title. If this game gets polished up so it’s less janky and has a bit more content, I think you might have a winner here. I’d happily fuel up my tank with this game after a long day at work. But now, I’d fuel it up until it randomly crashes.

In conclusion, I quite enjoy this game with jank and all. It has a lot of charm and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m so glad that I gave this game a shot and I hope you will to.

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

Score: 80/100

The Great Ace Attorney Goes To Review Trial

A collab review by AdventureRules & NekoJonez
Capcom pageNintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Introduction

When the reader clicked open the link, they entered a luxurious courtroom where the jury, the prosecution and the defense were preparing themselves to start the biggest trial in their careers. The headlines didn’t lie. “Is this the great return of the Ace Attorney series?”. When the title dropped on July 27th 2021 on the Nintendo Switch and other platforms, the reviews started to come in. It’s a big departure from the previous entries in the series, and there is a split between the fans. So, two hobbyist reviewers and big fans of the series decided to battle it out in a courtroom and try to be able to answer the question once and for all. Is the game worth your time, dear readers, or is it not? Take a seat in the gallery and enjoy this duel in the courtroom, and feel free to let us know how we did and what you would bring to the table in this battle. 

The judge rose to his podium while he slammed down his gavel. “The court is in session. Is the prosecution ready?” the judge spoke while looking in the direction of the cat-human hybrid sitting behind the prosecution bench. “Yes M’lord” the prosecution answered. Then the judge looked towards the defense and asked: “Are you ready consul of the defense?”. The defense, trying to hide his nerves, firmly pushed up his glasses and said: “Yes, my lord. The defense is ready.” 

The atmosphere in the courtroom was tense. At one hand, you were surprised to see that these two fans stood face to face in this courtroom defending a game. You know that these two writers are good friends, and it’s not the first time they worked together. But now, it looked like they would eat each other raw to win this court battle. But, on the other hand, you were curious what arguments they would bring to the table. You were curious what their thoughts and opinions were about the game you were looking forward to. While you were lost in thought, you missed the judge asking the prosecution to give their opening statement.

“… so, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a combination of two games that left the Japanese shores for the first time this summer.” the prosecutor said, while raising a scroll. “The original versions got released on the Nintendo 3DS way back in the summer of 2015 and the sequel in the summer of 2017. At first, the developers had no intention of bringing this title to our western shores, so fans took it upon themselves to translate the title. But, to everybody’s surprise, this title got an official translation and all the additional content and behind the scenes material got translated into English and as you all know…” the prosecution continued.

You raised an eyebrow, since the way the prosecution was acting looked a lot like how the prosecutor in the trailer of the game was acting. The only thing you were missing was the pouring of wine. Maybe the writer for the prosecutor got a bit lazy and copied the game a bit too much, you thought. You crossed your fingers in the hope that you would see more of his personal style shine through instead of copying the game too much. It would do this trial so much better if it was unique and not copying the established series and formula, you concluded. But, then you got a bit annoyed that you missed the actual opening statement. Thankfully, you read the headlines of the papers, so you know what this trail is going to be about. 

Visual Presentation

“Let’s start with the visual presentation”, the judge said. The attorney and the prosecution quickly agreed that the visual presentation is excellent in this game. “It’s a huge visual upgrade when you look at it from the 3DS games.” the attorney said. The prosecution somewhat agreed and said: “True, the attention to the details is exquisite. Yet, there were some moments when I felt some models looked off. Not polished enough when being brought over from the 3DS. There was even a puzzle that focused on 3D related technology that would have worked so much better on the 3DS. The fact that they didn’t implement something different or a solution for that… But, something that made me roll my eyes is how they reused the models for the jury. The excuse of ‘London is a big city, so you’ll find look-a-likes’ is okay, if it only happens once. It, sadly enough, happened more than once. Too much to count, to be frank.”

The attorney stepped in and said: “Those moments are few and far between. Besides, imagine the poor designers having to create 50 different character models and such to have unique juries. Let them reuse them, as long as there is variation, and it doesn’t get stale… they also justify it in most cases by having them literally be the same character and not just a lookalike. Ryunosuke even comments on it in one of the trials. So while I will allow that some may not like this choice, it was an intentional one on the part of the designers, and they did the work required to make it make sense in the fiction.” 

The attorney paused for a brief second, took a breath, and continued, “… If we are talking about the visual presentation, let’s mention the animations as well. The cutscenes in this game are way better animated than the previous title. The background is less static. The character animations are A+. Multiple times, I found myself literally laughing out loud at some ways these characters behaved. They strongly convey the personality and attitude of the cast.”

A sigh was heard through the courtroom. Of course, the prosecution had an objection. “The cutscenes are less static, I’ll give you that. But, explain to me why there are so few unique locations in this game. We visit the same hospital room in at least 4 to 5 different cases. You have a point that it would cost too many resources to make something unique each and every time, but why do the characters always have to mention… ‘Oh, what a coincidence… that place.’?” The prosecution slammed on his desk and looked straight at the attorney. “Now, let’s talk about the animations. I’m sorry, but I found that some side characters had more memorable animations compared to the main characters. Take Gina for example, her emotions were way more clear when you read her dialogue compared to the ones of Sholmes for example. Honestly, a bit more variation in the animations would be welcome. Especially, you see the same animations during give or take 10 cases this time and not 5. And maybe a few more if you include the bonus content.”

There was a silence in the courtroom. You felt that both parties were making good points. Indeed, the game looked amazing with various memorable locations. The attention to detail and the little nods to the rest of the series can warm any fan’s heart. But, you can also understand the other side of the argument. At first, this game was split into two 3DS games, and having repeat locations and almost the same animations on repeat, well that could get a bit dull and repetitive indeed.

A hammer slammed down, courtesy of the judge. “Okay, I heard both your points, counsels. But a game is more than just visual presentation and animations. Let’s move on to sound, the audio of this game. Let’s talk about that. Counsel of the defense?”

Audio and Controls

You noticed the attorney smiling and when he started talking, you felt the joy and passion of his words. “I loved this soundtrack so much, but of course, Ace Attorney always knocks it out of the park when it comes to music. There were perhaps fewer songs that stood out to me as all-time favorites, but I found that this soundtrack creates a more evocative atmosphere compared to the other games. Having differences in instrumentation and style depending on which country the characters were in made a difference.” the attorney said. 

The prosecutor squeezed the bridge of his nose and said: “Apart from a few tracks, I can’t agree more. There were a few tracks that didn’t hit the mark in my opinion. But, there is something that this game does that doesn’t sit a hundred percent right with me. Almost every character has his/her own theme. But, they like to use their own themes more during scenes instead of something that would fit the scene more. It made some scenes less memorable in my opinion. Then again, it did make the characters more memorable. So, make of the above point what you will.”

It was an interesting question. Should music in a game make a scene or a character more memorable? There was no real right answer for that question, you thought to yourself. And maybe that’s a question you should leave to game designers and producers instead of wondering it for yourself. While you were thinking about that question, you didn’t notice that both parties were talking about the sound effects in the game. You did hear the summary of it, thankfully.

“So, both parties agree that there is nothing wrong with the sound effects. Intriguing.” the judge said. “Let’s move on to the next section. Let’s talk about the various elements of the design.”

“The controls work pretty well. They are extremely responsive and made me feel in control of the whole series of events.” the attorney said. The prosecutor smirked, and you knew that it didn’t take long before a snide remark was going to come the attorney’s way. “Oh yeah? You are totally ignoring some frustrating things. Let’s talk first on when you go through the testimony of the witnesses, you don’t loop after the last statement to the first statement.”

The attorney shook his head and when he looked up to watch the prosecutor right in his eyes and remarked, “But that has an easy explanation. Just imagine being stuck at a certain point, and you skip the dialogue after the cross-examination where you get a hint to progress.” A sigh was heard. “Okay, I get what you are saying. But, think about this one. The original games were released on the 3DS. This version is on the Switch, where we have TWO additional buttons. One of these buttons could have been a sort of switch you could toggle for toggling between a loop or non-loop mode.”

There was no arguing with that. The prosecutor had a valid point there, but he wasn’t done yet talking about the controls. He rose a finger and said with a smile: “Oh, and one other thing. Let’s not forget that fast-forwarding in some scenes don’t even work correctly. The joint reasoning or the dance of deduction is slow when you have to repeat it when you made a few too many mistakes.”

A debate about some small, minor annoyances of the controls continued. You knew that finding the right balance between mechanics, controls and world-building is a difficult one to get perfectly right. There are always going to be things that work and don’t work. If flawless things existed, would they still be fun? From the controls, you heard the debating pair moving on to other things. 

Replayability and Difficulty

“How about you get two games, including the DLC and bonus content, for the price of one? You get 70, if not close to 80 hours of content to enjoy. Isn’t that worth the price of admission by itself?” the attorney said. 

“If only there was a demo for people on the edge to enjoy. That would make that deal even better. Yet, there are two things I want to touch upon. First, the DLC. You can use alternate costumes, but tell me… Why can you only use them in the second part of the game?” the prosecutor said with a slight annoyance in his voice. The attorney wanted to counterargue, but the prosecutor slammed his fist down and continued.

“Oh, and let’s not forget how everything is already unlocked from the start. Apart from a few things, you can start with the bonus material and totally spoil yourself with the spoiler warnings that could have been implemented a LOT better. Granted, all the bonus content is included, but honestly, after finishing the main game… I felt a bit burned out on the game and I haven’t touched the additional content at all.”

The defense attorney’s eyes were wide behind his glasses. The aggressive offense from the prosecution had left him somewhat stunned. He took a calming breath and spoke. “At least the game is somewhat replayable. I imagine it would be fun to revisit this game after you’ve seen the whole story and to recognize the moments of foreshadowing for what they really mean. Also, you can try to go for unlocking all of the achievements – called medals in this game,” he explained. “Oh, and the automated save system is a blessing. You can save essentially anywhere and if you mess up you lose almost no progress.”

“Those two are quite valid points,” the prosecution allowed. “Now, I think we are going to talk about the difficulty of this game now. Well, I have something to say about that. Something that couldn’t be avoided, with combining two games into one as a sort of collection, is that the first few cases in the 2nd half of the game are a bit on the easy side. Since, originally, you couldn’t be 100% certain if a player played the first game before the second. But, the game isn’t too challenging overall. The previous entries in the series were more difficult. That’s not to say that this game is a cakewalk, though. But, overall, this game felt easier compared to the previous games… But that might have to do with the fact I have been playing these games for years now. I actually found the leaps of logic in this game to be tougher than I remember some other games in the series being. In the second game in particular, I had a game over in every case due to moments where I thought the needed evidence was tricky to figure out.” After that long remark, the prosecutor paused.

He thought he had the attorney cornered. But, don’t ever underestimate somebody who is reviewing or talking about games for so long; a comeback can always happen. 

“I’ll allow that following the logic of an Ace Attorney game can be challenging,” the defense began. “But there’s a place for it. For series veterans, the unique brain bending mechanic of pitting two jury members to each other is a welcome addition. Meanwhile, for those who don’t want to deal with the challenge element of the game, there is a story mode where you just watch through the game’s story without any gameplay mechanics slowing you down. So for players who find the challenge to be a barrier, there is a way to experience the story without the puzzles getting in the way.” 

The judge was in awe, he didn’t have to interject nor lead the trail. Both parties were going from one topic to another and putting all their cards on the table. You knew, that’s because both parties have been analyzing games for several years, so they know what to watch out for. They chose to debate in this manner to talk about this game, they wanted to do something unique to review this game, and they were enjoying themselves quite a lot. Suddenly, you heard the hammer of the judge hit, and you looked up to him.

“Before you two ramble on and on about the game, let’s focus on the final two topics of this trial. These are gameplay and the story. Let’s start with the gameplay. Is this game fun to play?” the judge asked.

Gameplay and Story

This time, the attorney started with his argument: “I really liked the analysis sections and pitting the jury against each other. The summation examination mechanic is really solid and adds a lot to the trials. I also liked the Dance of Deduction mechanic for investigations, as it made a section of the game that I usually find to be kind of middling into something more interesting. Being able to examine most pieces of evidence is great and adds a layer of drama to the trials when you suddenly get something new and then a huge new clue comes from checking it out.”

And of course, as expected, the prosecutor wanted to say something as well. “I could start an argument that the game is somewhat repetitive. But, the game is for a certain audience. An audience that enjoyed the mystery novel gameplay. So, they won’t get too bored. And if they get bored, or burned out, they can take a break and come back to the game at a later time. I don’t have any counterarguments in the gameplay department. This game is easy to learn and if you have played previous entries in the series, it’s still enjoyable to play with the new mechanics and tricks it brings to the table.”

So, it’s time for the big one. The story. You didn’t want to miss this. Both parties agreed to keep this debate spoiler free, so you were curious how they were going to handle that. You heard the judge introduce and explain that fact, and both parties looked to each other, readying themselves for the most important topic of this whole debate. 

After a small pause, the attorney started: “I really enjoyed Ryunosuke as a protagonist and the way in which this story is all about building his self-confidence and him finding his path through life. Susato is a wonderful assistant character, and I found myself cheering for her all the time during my playthrough. While Lord van Zieks being racist against the Japanese people really bugs me, it made it fun to get the upper hand against him during the trials, and he has a powerful, evocative design. Also, let’s not forget that this entry has various moments where things don’t always have the rose colored ending we would come to expect.”

The prosecutor agreed, but had to add a few things. “Yet, it sometimes falls in the same trap that all the previous entries started to fall in. I found some sections to be a bit predictable. But, I’m not going to go too in-depth about that since we agreed to keep this debate spoiler  free. One thing I would have loved to see is more voice acting. The voice actors did an amazing job in the cutscenes to make their characters come to life. If only that was used more. Of course, it would be somewhat overkilled if the whole massive script was voice acted, but a bit more would be stunning. It would give more power to certain strong moments in the game.”

The attorney swiftly moved on and said: “It’s a breathtaking entry point for newcomers since it’s a totally new cast of characters. This has been my favorite storyline since Trials and Tribulations. The story is grounded and compelling, with lots of twists and turns throughout. Using two games to tell one big overarching story was a good move.” 

The prosecutor cracked his whip loudly, causing the defense attorney to reflexively flinch. The entire courtroom was paying attention to him. “But, there are a few things that could have been handled better in terms of writing. First, if you don’t understand English too well, especially British English… A lot will go over your head with the dialect writing and no option to turn it off. But, props for writing the script in that way, though. Now, if only there were more Japanese jokes and such snuck in when a case played in Japan. Speaking of which, there is no investigation section in Japan. Which brings me to my next point. The structure of the game feels weird in places. The tutorial feels too long in the first game because of both the first and second chapters being tutorials (one for trials and one for investigations). The first game essentially only has two proper cases in it, and the trials are never broken up by investigation sections, so the investigations feel super long.”

He left a small pause to try and read the room. It looked like he wanted to say something, but he was unsure if he should mention it or not. You could read in his eyes that he has seen this dilemma before. Should he talk about something that might spoil the whole game before or should he leave it out since they agreed not to talk about spoilers in their debate? 

So, you sat there looking at both parties argue. Each party had great points to bring to the table. You could totally understand where both parties were coming from. But, now it’s up to you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusion. Yes, the writers of this collab are taking that ‘easy’ way out. Now that you heard the negatives and the positives of the game, what do you think? Let us know in the comments down below, and maybe we shall ask you to be our next witness in this trail to answer the question in this trail once and for all. 

Editorial note: the portrayals of the prosecution and defense represent the combined views of both NekoJonez and Adventure Rules, who each contributed pros and cons to the review. 

Additional note from me, NekoJonez: Thank you so much Ian from Adventure Rules for working with me on this! Your art, advice, proof reading and advice made this collab come out the amazing way it did. Really check out his blog and his Twitter if you want to see more of his work. It’s amazing and worth checking out! Thanks buddy for this collab and thank you for all the support man!

Review: AI: The Somnium Files – The Nirvana Initative (Switch) ~ Let’s Dive Again

Official English websiteWikipedia page

One of my most favorite genres is an adventure visual novel. A game with a deep story with memorable characters and unique gameplay that draws you into the world of the game. Examples are Corpse Party where a cursed school plays tricks on your mind or Ace Attorney where you play as an attorney that takes on the strangest cases. I could list examples here for quite a while, like Time Hollow, where you get a pen that can mess with the past in certain circumstances. My favorite series in this genre are the Nonary games. I sometimes quote various moments to this day. I was beyond excited that after the trilogy ended, a new series by the same writer started in 2019. AI: The Somnium Files. Now, after I finished that game, I couldn’t wait to see what Kotaro Uchikoshi and his team were going to turn out next. And that is a sequel to AI: The Somnium Files, which picks up 6 years after the original game. But is it any good, or is this a sequel that we should avoid? Well, that’s what I want to talk about in this review. This review is spoiler free, so if you haven’t played the game… You shouldn’t worry about that. But in any case, let’s dive right into the game while I welcome you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editoral note: this game also released on all other major platforms. I chose to play this game on Switch since I played the original on Switch as well.

Have you played?

In the original game, you took on the role of Date. An investigator at ABIS with a special AI companion implanted in his eye. Now, in this game, that isn’t really the case anymore since the focus is more on daughter Mizuki. In this game, you also play as Ryuki who is another investigator at ABIS. Both these agents are involved in a cold case which they are trying to solve for their own reasons. After the case going cold, suddenly 6 years later a new clue is found that totally reopens the cold case. So, why did the case turn into a cold case and why suddenly after 6 years are there new clues found?

In terms of explaining the story, that’s all I’m willing to say to avoid spoilers. I know I might be cutting it a bit short or being extremely vague, but this is a sort of game where you should go in as blind as possible. The story in visual novel adventure games like this one are best experienced as blind as possible. At least, that’s the way how I enjoy it the best. And sidenote, to avoid spoilers I’m going to explain some things in this article with rather generic terms instead of the in game terms.

Something that really surprised me in the opening few minutes of the game is that there is something implemented that is something I think should become a standard in other visual novel games. A sort of check to avoid spoilers of the original game. Since this game is a sequel, there is a potential that people start with this game before the original. And if you won’t get yourself spoiled on the previous game, certain pieces of dialogue are changed if you are unable to answer the questions about the ending of the previous game. Then, it skips over the dialogue that spoils parts of the previous game. Apart from a few lines, it doesn’t change too much, so you won’t be missing out if you answer the question or not.

In terms of writing, this game really delivers. The new characters don’t feel out of place at all. I honestly sometimes felt that the new characters were background characters in the original game… The voice acting in this game is one of the strongest points of this game. They make the characters come to live and pull me in the game’s world so hard. There are some weaker moments in this story, but overall, these are far and few between. In general, this pacing and story of this game is good.

Something that’s really great in this game is that there is a sort of glossary. When you forgot who a certain character is or what a certain word means, you can easily look it up in your file. There is some amazing value in there as well. So, I highly recommend reading through it.

Explore the dreams

Just like in the previous game, in this game you have to explore people’s dreams to find answers and clues for your investigation. If you played the previous game, it’s very familiar. In these explorations, you have 6 minutes to unlock the mental locks of a person to find the big clue that’ll let you progress into the game. Each interaction costs a certain amount of time, so you have to be careful and really think your actions through.

You do have 3 “retry coins” you can spend to travel back to a previous checkpoint. So, if you mess up, and you want to restart a certain section with a bit more time, you can travel back. If you don’t have enough retry coins or game-over, you’ll have to restart from you’re the start of the exploration. Also, in these explorations, it’s possible that the story splits into two paths. Now, I highly recommend that you explore all paths to the end before going to another path.

There are some additional mechanics during these explorations that can influence the time used, but that mechanic is somewhat underused in this game compared to the original. I played this game on the highest difficulty setting and to be honest, while the puzzles are interesting and a blast to figure out… I found them a bit too easy. Furthermore, I have to admit that I had to write some puzzles down on a piece of paper, but rarely did I get stuck or didn’t know right away how to solve a puzzle. The original game was more challenging.

With that said, it doesn’t mean that with easier puzzles that this game is less fun. Maybe I got lucky in figuring them out, or the experience of solving these puzzles from the previous game helped me out here.

Something I really like is when you full beat one of these dives, you unlock that dive without any time limitations. So, I can find out what the dialogue is in the wrong options and enjoy more of the enjoyable writing of this game.

This game controls extremely well. I don’t have any complaints on how this game controls. There is one minor complaint I have. There is one mini-game in the pause menu, which you can’t select by going through the menu. For the longest time, I thought I was able to only play this in handheld mode, but you just have to press the minus button on the controller to enter it. But I’ll talk more in depth about the mini-games and such later in the article.

So, these explorations in people’s minds isn’t the only mechanic in this game. There are also reconstructions you have to do. This is where you have to search for clues in a crime scene to answer a question. These moments are a lot less punishing since they don’t have a time limit.

These moments are a nice distraction to the game. Since, they help to sell that there is actual investigation work going. Yet, some of the hardest puzzles are in these sections. But, if you get stuck, the biggest hint I can give is to write the puzzle down. In these sections, there were one or two puzzles that would work a lot better if you were able to look at the clues, so that’s why I highly recommend you to write them down.

Another gameplay section of this game are the moments with quick time events. These moments are easily the weakest link of this game. I found these moments a bit boring since they are basically an interactive cutscene. You know when they are coming and these moments would have been so much more fun if they weren’t quick time events since they slow the scene down when they happen and these scenes are supposed to be fast paced actually. I’m sorry, but the implementation of the quick time event scenes in this game isn’t the best in this game. All these moments blend in with each other a bit too well.

Now, you can change the difficulty of the quick time events and the exploration moments. So, if you want to focus more on the story instead of the gameplay, that’s totally possible. Lowering the difficulty makes the game easier since it has less penalties for you. The game doesn’t lock any content away from you by lowering the difficulty.

The final gameplay section you have in this game is the investigation section. Where you go from place to place, so you can talk to the various characters to gather more information. During these moments, you can look around and investigate the environment for additional world & character building, jokes and dialogues.

These moments are just the right length. I never really felt that the conversation went on for a bit too long. Also, you can save during at any time during these moments, so when you have to leave the game and want to come back, you can comeback to a save point. This game also saves automatically. But speaking about saving and loading, this game has only one save slot. So, don’t forget about that.

Costumes and such

The music and sound design in this game is quite enjoyable. The music fits this game as a glove. I have already added it to my playlist, so I can listen to it while I’m working.

In terms of sound effects, the high quality is there as well. I don’t have any complaints about them. Most of the sound effects are just like the previous game, and they worked extremely well there.

Visually, this game looks excellent. There are some very minor rough spots, especially in low lighting, but they didn’t bother me too much. Overall, the visuals fit the atmosphere of the game extremely well. The new locations created for this game fit extremely well in the world. The animations in this game are great as well. I did notice some minor animation flaws here and there, especially with the mouths not always closing after some dialogue. But on the other hand, they help put the expression of the character come to life.

Now, let me talk about the performance of this game. Overall, I noticed barely any performance problems during my playthrough. There was some minor slowdown here and there and I felt like some cutscenes ran at a bit lower framerate compared to the rest of the game but overall, nothing really major in that regard. The game did crash on me. Three times even. Thankfully on moments where I didn’t loose to much progress but it did happen.

This game took me around 35 hours to complete and also to see some of the additional content. So, I think that the price is totally worth it.

One of the last things I want to talk about are the mini-games and the DLC. There is DLC for this game in the forms of alternative customes for the AI assistants in this game. Overall, the additional content is quite cheap but it’s 100% costmetic. If you are a fan of silly alternative customs, they are the right fit for you.

Now, during the game you can unlock eyeballs. With these eyeballs you can purchase the unlocked costmetic items via the bonus menu in the main menu. You can also unlock concept art and other materials. Some of these items even have some easter eggs in them!

What you can buy with these eyeballs depend on your progress in the game. Now, something I really like is how you are unable to unlock everything when you have seen the true ending of this game. You’ll have to go back into the game to go in alternative routes and maybe try the wrong options to have a new evalution. There are in total 40 evaluations to unlock and completing the true ending, I still had 16/40 left to find.

The only dissapointing thing is that there are barely any hints in the game to find these remaining endings. I think it would be a nice feature if you are able to see on which day you can unlock that evalution after you have seen the true ending. This doesn’t take away the challenge of searching for the ending since each day has a lot of content to go through.

There are two “mini-games” in this game. One is a sort of advice room where the AI assistant of the character you are playing as plays a sort of shrink for you as the player. I rarely used this mode apart from it also being the dressing room of the costumes you bought. The combinations you can make with dressing up your AI ball are numerous. I just wish that there was a button to “sync” costumes between them.

Anyways, there is one other mini-game I have to talk about. This is a sort of Tamagochi where depending on how you answer the questions, your tamagochi AI-ball evovles into different AI-balls. Each 20 minutes you get a question. You have four different possible replies. Depending on your replies, a certain stat increases and you can get another creature. Since, it all depends on the stats you increase. You can also unlock a guide when you reach a certain type which can help you unlock all the others. It’s an enjoyable destraction to the game but apart from it being a nice source of eyeballs to purchase costumes, I found that there is nothing really to it. While I can totally see some people enjoying this, I’m not one of those.

Overall, in this article I have mostly praised this game. But, there are a few things that don’t work at all and can be improved in a patch or a sequel. The first big thing is the small font of the option menu. If you play this game in docked mode and sit a meter of two (which is +/- 6 feet), the option screen becomes close to unreadable. Thankfully, there is a zoom feature on the Switch and the top right infobox gives some hints… But still, that menu is too small. If they wanted to keep the same visual design, just make more pages with a bigger font.

A nitpick I have is that when something is added to the file, and it’s in the manual… The green dot is so close to the binder of the manual that you can barely see it. I think changing the color of the manual in the file would have been a great move.

Another nitpick I have is when you go to the bonus section from the main menu, you only see Aiba there. I have never seen the other AI-ball there. I found this a missed oppertunity. It would be kind of fun to have a random chance to see either Aiba or Tama there.

The final thing I dislike about this game is that there is no real run button in this game. You do have a skip button, that’s pretty close to the “auto” button, but you can’t run in explorations. I would even not mind it with having a run button and it costing twice as much time to move around… Since, the walking speed is a bit slow when you are playing again to find the other endings.

So, with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. So, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article in a nice conclusion so people who are looking at this article to know if this game is any good or not and don’t want to read everything have something to quickly read.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Enjoyable story where you can avoid spoilers of the original.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles.

+ Great controls.

+ …

The bad:

-Some slowdowns/crashes can happen on the Switch version.

-Too small options menu.

-Missed chances with quick time events.

-Some minor issues in terms of polish like one of the mini-games being reachable with a button instead of it being highlighted when scrolling through.

Final thoughts:

To answer the question I posed in my introduction, I think that this game is a worthy sequel to the original game. The game is quite a lot of fun to play and I had a blast playing it. The game has it’s weaker moments but those overall are no big issue compared to the overall package. This sequel can also be a great entry point into the series and there are a lot of winks to veteran fans.

There are some issues for sure and the story has some weaker moments but I might repeat myself but the positive and fun moments far outweigh the negative moments. I enjoyed this game so much when it finally released here in Europe that I even pulled an all nighter during my summer break while playing this game. It’s so much fun.

Thanks to it releasing in my summer break, I have already beaten the game and now I’m looking for the things I missed but so far, it’s one of the best games I have played all year.

Personally, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or visual novel games. This sci-fi thriller story is a blast to play through. This game comes also recommended if you enjoy playing mystery solving games. The original game now has a demo as well on the Switch eShop and if you enjoy that, this game or the original are going to be such an amazing time!

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

Score: 90/100

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 1 – Canyonlands (Part 2)

Introduction to this miniseries

A while ago, I wrote an article about speedrunning one of my most treasured childhood games. One of my yearly traditions is playing through this game and ever since last year, I wanted to have a new challenge. That challenge I found in speedrunning the game, and now when I’m playing the game, I try to challenge myself to try to beat my PB. In this miniseries, I’m going to talk about the current route, tips, and tricks of the Game Boy Color speedrun of this game. So, let’s grab our hat and whip and let’s dive right into the first level… again? Well, yes. It’ll soon become clear. Also, feel free to leave a comment down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this article, the content, the game and/or the route.

Introduction to All Treasures

In the first part, linked higher, of this miniseries… I talked about the Any% route. Basically, the goal in the Any% category is to finish the level as quickly as possible. Now, there is another category we have and that’s “All Treasures”.

So, in each level of this game, 10 treasures are hidden. The Game Boy Color version is an exception to that, since it has two levels with no treasures. This exception doesn’t even apply to the PC nor the N64 version.

The treasures are meant to buy supplies at the “IQ store” in between levels. In the PC & N64 version, you can buy more varied health items and ammo but in the GBC (Game Boy Color) version, you can only buy either a health kit or a poison kit. And you can have a max stock of 5, which is also different compared to the PC & N64 version.

Now, all treasures is a tricky run to do. Since, in the GBC version, you need to play close to perfection if you want to unlock the final “secret” level Peru. In a full game all treasures run you can choose between two categories. You either go for “All Treasures (No Peru)” or “2055 IQ”.

The tricky thing about “2055 IQ” is that you basically can’t close to anything, or you won’t have enough points to go to the Peru level. And in the run, you aren’t allowed to cheat and after beating the game enter the level code and skip the challenge. But, the tricky thing is that some levels require you to use a health pack for the quickest route. It’s a puzzle I currently haven’t attempted and plan to do one day.

But, I’ll focus on full game runs in their separate article. For now, let’s focus on Individual Levels Speedruns or ILS for short. So, how is the current route of the “All Treasures” of Canyonlands? Let’s explore!

The category rules as of writing this article:

Link to Speedrun.com page
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by me who ran this level in 4 minutes and 41 seconds on April 17th 2022.
The previous records I had were: 5m25, 4m58, 4m53.

Feel free to follow along while waiting the run.

Note: in this article I talk about time marks of the run. Since there is a failed run in the upload, the video time doesn’t match the run time. I’m sorry about that.

Note 2: when I say “current record”, I obviously mean my current record at the time of writing this article. So, I hope to clears up confusion when this record is beaten and/or improved by me or someone else.

The run explored

So, unlike the Any% route… We avoid the ladder snipe down directly. Since this snipe would make 4 out of the 10 treasures impossible to collect. So, we go left.

Now, the movement of this scorpion on the other platform is an RNG fest. In most cases, if you hug the upper wall, you can avoid it without any problem. When I get bitten by the scorpion, I reset right away. The lost health from the poison makes gathering the first treasures way more risky.

So, the sequence of events here is:

  • Jump over the safe pit
  • Huge the uppermost wall and go left
  • Jump over the unsafe pit
  • Ready Indy’s whip by mashing select twice while running left
  • Jump at the last second, so you jump over the waterfall.

If you do this sequence perfectly, you’ll be right in place to whip over the gap. Yet, this is easier said than done. The sequence of inputs I just described are close to frame perfect in some places. All these actions take place in give or take two or three seconds. When I don’t reach the other end and climbing the ladder when the timer hits 11 seconds, I know I can reset the run.

Why do I see that as a reset point? Well, because I know myself. If I allow my timer to be higher, I’ll go in a slight panic mode since I feel like I’m unable to beat my record and make too many silly mistakes sometimes costing me the whole run. So, it’s to keep myself calm. Anyway, you might have noticed that yellow coin looking thing in the 2nd screenshot. That’s one of the four treasures here. That’s the treasure you should get last. If you take this as your first treasure, you’ll lose a lot of time since there is no easy way to get back to the area with the first three treasures, and you’ll have to do the whip swing again which costs around a second or two.

Oh yes, you can save some time if you jump up right after swinging with the whip. This saves half a second in climbing, but it’s tricky to do, and a bad jump can land you either lower or just at the bottom of the ladder losing the time save. But, as far as I know, there is no real danger in trying to attempt this trick.

Now, after you climbed up… I highly suggest that you press select once so Indy’s hand is the tool you are using. Now, there is something you need to know about doors in this game.

I enter the treasure room in my current world record around 16-17 seconds. If you watch the run, you might notice that Indy looks like he is entering the wall.

Now, here is the thing about doors in this game. The hitboxes are wider than they visually appear. So, in other words, visually it looks like you can enter where the aqua line is. Yet, you can enter where I drew the white line.

Trying to enter a door as soon as possible saves a few frames, but these add up quickly in this level.

Now, this is a moment where you can make a choice. I haven’t tested it which route is faster. The first choice is that you go for the two treasures above and the second choice is that you go for the treasure at the bottom. Both have their dangers but all three need to be collected.

The sequence of collecting these three depend on me if I’m able to enter the door behind the stone you can push. Usually, I go to the right of the stone and push it to the left while hugging the wall. I let go of left at the end of the push animation to push up and usually Indy goes in the door right away.

Yet, in my current world record run I decided to do things a bit different. I decided to jump up right away and get the two treasures on top. Without pushing the stone at all. Which is a dangerous and risky move.

Usually, when you push the block to the left… You can jump up on the left side and grab the red jewel. After that, it’s easy to avoid the bastard of an enemy and grab the green jewel. Oh, jump over those tiles with the crack in them. Since, if Indy is full on that tile… He’ll fall down below in the water without any way out. Loosing your chance to pick up the treasures in this area.

If you go up right away, the chances of that enemy poising Indy is a lot higher. But if you go up, you’ll need to first go for the green jewel. Since going for the red first will make you a better target for the enemy and corner jumps are quite tricky, and I landed so many times on those unstable tiles during attempts, it’s not funny anymore. Also, I find that when you drop down after the red jewel, it’s easier to line Indy up to push the stone without having to re-orient him.

So, let’s push the stone, so we can pick up the final treasure in this treasure room. After going up, there is a very ideal way to move in this room to have the fastest time.

Yes, I’m taking screenshots of the YouTube upload

The blue and purple lines show the way towards and back from the treasure. Depending on the movement of the scorpion, it’s easier to line yourself up. While you can walk pretty close to the water… It’s a reset when you fall in. Since, you lost your chance to pick up two treasures now. In my current record, I chose to go down & around since the scorpion was a bit too close to the ideal route and I didn’t want to risk it.

And also, it’s best that you pick up the treasure on the first few frames on your way back. Since, you’ll be able to keep your momentum which saves a few frames. You can see how I do my controller inputs for this around the 37 second mark in the run.

On my way back, I noticed that the scorpion was down below, so I was able to get closer to the edge with the water. But, it’s possible to get even closer, but remember… This is quite risky since falling into the water makes you unable to obtain certain treasures. Since, unlike the PC/N64 version, there is no way to get back up here and obtain these treasures. Even in casual play.

So, around the 48-second mark… I have left the treasure room. With a bit better movement and not being poisoned by the enemy I think I can shave a second off here. Yet, it would be extremely tricky to do and risky. After leaving the treasure room, it’s time to go to the right to go down, jump over the waterfall and pick up the coins we saw earlier to pick up the final out of 4 treasures on top here.

During my current record, I lose a bit of time here as well by hugging the upper wall.

Now, comes something risky. After collecting the coins, you’ll need to jump down and try to line Indy up the closest edge of the waterfall. The goal is to land in the pool down below closest to the exit point. But, when you jump down too early… You might let Indy miss the pool and die. Jump too late, and you lose a second or two in the water since Indy swims so slow in this game. My drop/jump around the 53-second mark isn’t perfect. I was too center. I had better but I also had worse. After dropping into the water, exit it as soon as you can at the top right-hand side.

After exiting the water, you might notice that enemy and want to jump over or away from it. Don’t. Since, it’s somewhat easy to avoid and you are risking loosing time by either dropping back into the water or jumping too early/late and getting poisoned. Just move a bit down around the spot in the screenshot above. I actually moved down perfectly in my current record. Since, you need to avoid a wall and go into the door a bit behind it. This is what you see me do around the 1 minute 4 seconds mark.

Now we enter a “puzzle” room where I hate the movement with a passion. If there is one thing I’m not too good at… that’s precise movement.

The solution to the puzzle is that you need to walk on the sun tiles in a certain sequence. First, you hit the 3rd tile counting from the left. Then, go to the first tile without walking over the second tile and just walk over the rest. So, from the left the sequence is: 2-3-1-4.

The issue here is that the hitboxes of these tiles are a bit off. The tops are quite sensitive and the bottoms aren’t. So, when you try and walk from tile 3 to tile 1, it’s easy to trigger tile 2 when you go overtop. Now, it’s highly recommended that you go overtop since the treasurees will drop from the totempole you see on top this room. So, yeah, this room is tricky and might require some “training”.

Now, after the treasures drop: go for the left most treasure first! Since, the right most treasure is perfectly in line with the door. Mixing these up might cost you a few frames. After exiting this puzzle room, you go to the right. There is another stone which needs to be pushed down once and then left once. It’s possible to jump from there to ledge above the door. Yet, I find it safer and more consitent to push it left twice so the gap is only one block. For some reason, I have a hard time making those two block jumps from a lower to a higher platform. While it is possible as you’ll see in the next level.

Now, hug the wall and jump at the last second as shown in the screenshot below here. If you do it right, you’ll grab the ladder and skip a part of the climbing animation. This is one of the minor optimisations you can do to save a few frames. Yet, be careful with trying this one. If you push Indy too much to the left, you will not grab the ladder and miss the platform and have to go back on the ledge.

After this, it’s a bit of climbing we need to do. Jump earlier to the ladder to skip climbing it when you can. This is an easy trick to master which can shave so much time off your runs. After the 2nd ladder, be careful since there is a scorpion quite close to the part where you accend from the ladder and being poisoned there is real easy. That’s why I usually jump forwards once to avoid that and get closer to the door.

Be sure you are at least more half health now since there are some parts coming up that will require you to be able to tank/take some damage. If needed, there is a herb in the hallway. Herbs are faster to heal compared to going into the menu, going to a medkit and then going out of the menu. You see me pick up the one outside of the hallway around the 2 minute 2 seconds mark.

There is a reason why I take out the pistol around the 2 minute 18 seconds mark. Because there are some enemies coming up which are difficult to avoid when you exit a door. I rather shoot them to be safe. Now, it’s possible to save a bit of time to do a corner jump from the ladder platform as shown with the purple line. But, it’s a tricky one and might cause you to loose your run. Corner jumps are in general not easy in this game. Usually, I take the safe route wit the lightblue line. Which looses a few frames, but it’s safer and more consistent.

Now, after this, you can make another choice. Go right into the closest door or go for another treasure. There are 4 left we still need to get and it doesn’t really matter which one you go for first. I usually go for the bottom one last. If you want to go for the bottom one first, be my guest. This will be the last treasure talked about in this article.

So, I go into the closest door right after killing that enemy. In that case, don’t put your revolver away. Since, scorpions have this nasty “”feature”” where they can poison you during the whipping across animation. So, shoot the scorpion dead when you enter the room and go left to whip across. Remember to use select to switch between your tools to save time. Opening & closing the menu adds so much additional time.

Now, don’t make the same mistake as me here. When you need to whip across, you shouldn’t be right at the edge since Indy’ll whip in front of him then. And this’ll cost you a second or so. Stand a bit more back. When you are swinging across, you might notice the next treasure.

If you pick it up now, it’s fine. If you want to pick it up on your way back… It’s fine as well. The time to pick up this treasure is the same either way. In my current record, I chose to pick it up after the two treasures after whipping across again. So, don’t forget to pick this one up if you skip it now. But, after whipping across… Shoot the enemy, for a similar reason as before. Now, after that, you’ll see two doors at the bottom.

You can choose the sequence of the two here. Since I have the gun equiped, I prefer the left door first. So, I’ll explain the right part later.

The gun is equiped and we go in the left door. The gun is needed since there is a nasty troll scorpion that you will encouter right after exiting the hallway after the door. Either move to the right, right away, or shoot it. If you shot it without getting poisoned, count yourself lucky since that will make the upcoming part way easier.

Now, the treasure is at the bottom of this section. Drop down as quickly as you can without taking too much damage. Since, you’ll need the health to tank scorpion poison since they are so nastly placed. Be sure to switch back to the hand to pick up the treasure box. I started my decent on the 2 minutes 47 seconds mark. The decent was quite clean. But, my ascend. Oh boy. From 2 minutes 56 seconds you see some messy jumping and me getting screwed over by scorpion poison twice. It’s something to costs me so much time and doing the ascend propely is somewhat stressful.

So, after the hallway, equip your gun again to kill the newly spawned scorpion and now, it’s time to explain the right door. For that door, be sure you have the hand equipped. Since, right after exiting the door, you’ll have to drop down.

If you drop down on the corner edge of the platform, you reach the hitbox when Indy is in that landing animation and when you mash “A”, you’ll pick up the treasure. Go left and swap to the whip to swing across.

Jump across the death pit and be VERY careful trying to do a ladder jump here. It might save you a few frames into the climbing animation but missing the ladder means certain doom and dead run. I rarely to never risk it here since I desipe loosing a run to a silly mistake near the end of the run.

After the ladder, go to the right, up and over jump across and get back into the door. After that, swing across the two gaps and get into the door again. Now, we come back to one of the choice spots. Since I started to talk about the “top” door first, let’s go down and to the left now for the final treasure.

In here, there is the final treasure of this level. Be careful to not step on the cracked tiles since they drop you down lower in the level. And when you don’t have enough health, they are deadly.

Now, it’s time to go to the right the whole way after exiting this door. Go towards the ladder we climbing up, where I said you could save time with that risky corner jump. And now go to the right instead of the left. And then, it’s basically the Any% run route after the ladder snipe. Be careful, since now there is an extra scorpion for you to avoid. But, I use that one to jump at the right time to speed up the first long climb.

My ending was a bit messy but hey. That means more time can be shaved off this run. Since we played the full level, we see Sophia actually walk up to Indy. When you do the ladder snipe of the Any% run, Sophia won’t show up but the textbox will play.

Don’t forget to push “A” to skip the textbox faster. And yeah, that’s the whole route.

Looking back on this run, I’m certain that a run of 4 minutes 38 seconds is totally possible. Especially since I saw a lot of potential improvement while looking through this run to write this article.

Now, this level has one of the biggest differences between the Any % route and the All Treasures route. A 4-minute difference even.

After writing this article, I’m quite hyped to try and beat my record. So, I’m going to try and do that during my summer holidays. Keep an eye on my Twitter since I’ll post there when I have beaten my time.

But oh boy, was this a long article yet a fun one to write. Next time in this miniseries, I’m going to take a look at the second level Babylon. Maybe I might write only one article about that level since most of these treasures aren’t too far off the main route for Any%, yet they do cost a lot of time to grab.

And with that said, 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.