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

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.

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

PC game reviewGBC review

In the past, I have reviewed the two versions of one of the biggest games in my childhood. Ever since I saw Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Arc, I was hooked. When my cousin showed me that he had a 3D PC adventure game starring Indiana Jones, I kept playing that game until the disc actually broke on me. Yes, that frequently. Also, I didn’t have a lot of access to the internet and also my native language isn’t English, so navigating the early internet was a challenge. So, beating this game without it being well known… Was a challenge. It was no Pokémon where you could ask things to other kids during recess. I played this game over and over again, and a while ago I started speedrunning it. And in this new series of articles, I’m going to talk about the routes/tips & tricks on speedrunning this game. I’m going to focus on the GBC version, since that’s the version I mostly run and know best.

Some background

Foremost, I want to give some additional background. Especially since this is the first article in a series. When I got the GBC version for my birthday one day, I was unable to beat it. I was unable to finish Shambala for the longest time. There are some unlogical things you have to do if you haven’t played the PC version or if you don’t try everything.

Fast-forward to last year in April. After re-playing the game for the “I lost count how many times” time on the PC, I wanted to challenge myself. So, I thought, why not speedrun the game. And then I started running the PC version. I started the “All Treasures category” in the PC version since the “Any%” category is quite optimized.

If you are already lost in what I’m saying let me quickly fill you in. A speedrun is a challenge you can do in a game where you have to beat a level or the full game as quickly as possible without cheating. Now, abusing game mechanics or glitches is allowed. Well, depending on the category and/or game. Some terms that speedrunners use are:

  • ILS: a term used when only one level is ran.
  • Any%: a term that’s used to indicate that the goal is beaten as fast as possible by skipping as much as possible.
  • Category: an example of a category is Any% or ILS. It’s a type of speedrun, basically. You either have the complete the whole level/game 100% as fast as possible or collect all X or not take damage or not abuse a certain glitch… It explains itself basically.
  • TAS: Tool Assisted Speedrun. This means that certain tools were used to create the run. For example, using save states to create the perfect run. (A save state is “save” that saves the current state of the game at the moment the save state is made and can be loaded by the press of a button). Tools like emulators to have better quality footage of the run aren’t always TAS runs, depends on the game/community.
  • Strats: just a sort of strategy/technique.
  • PB: personal best time.

Now, I’ll try to explain terms in my article. When you don’t understand a certain term or something written in this article, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section, and I’ll do my best to answer it. Anyways, let’s start with explaining the starts and such are used in the first level of the Game Boy Color version of the game.

Any%

The official rule set at the moment of writing:

Link to Speedrun.com page
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by Molotok who ran this level in 29 seconds.
My current best at the time of writing is 30 seconds, which earns me the second place.

In the Any% route of this level, you get directly introduced the one of the biggest tricks in this game and that’s ladder sniping.

You’d think that runners are jumping to their impending doom here. Yet, this isn’t true. In this game, when you jump down, and you grab a ladder, all movement and fall damage is canceled. After Indy slides down the ramp, almost directly to the right, you can find the ending of the level.

Sadly, there are some annoying parts of this ladder snipe. For of all, take this image. On there, I have drawn a blue line and a green line. Stating the obvious I know, but go with me.

When Indy slides down at the start of the level, he stops somewhere in the blue zone. Well, more in the middle of the ramp. But the annoying thing is that when you go directly to the right then, you’ll hit a wall.

If you want to beat the WR in this level, and you hit that starting wall, you might as well reset. This ladder snipe is so optimized that the world record hasn’t been tied yet. Even master PC/N64 runner the_kovic with his 30 second run has trouble matching that 29 seconds.

After falling down, you need to grab this ladder. Grabbing the ladder when falling down is dubbed a “ladder snipe” in our community. The following image is the frame I grabbed the ladder in my PB.

This is how Molotok got the ladder snipe:

A few pixels higher and a bit more in the middle. This meant he saves some milliseconds there and actually goes faster.

After that, it’s climbing up and going to the right:

Taken from Molotoks video of his 29 second speedrun.

See the green line? Well, that’s a jump. It’s a few frames faster than walking close to it and then jumping. After that, we walk diagonally and give or take at the black X, we jump.

Why a jump towards the ladder there? Well, climbing ladders in this game is extremely slow. The fewer time spent climbing ladders, the better. In this game, you don’t need to start at the bottom of the ladder to climb one. In this game, there are a few moments where you need to drop from the top of a ladder to the bottom of another one. This means, that as soon as Indy hits a ladder, and you hold up, the game’ll cling Indy to the ladder, and you can start climbing. The game automatically centers Indy into the middle of the ladder when you grabbed the sides while climbing upwards. This little jump (ab)uses on how the ladders work to shave off a few frames.

When climbing up the ladder, a trick comes which I have a hard time mastering. And that’s when you reach the top of the ladder, you can go a bit to the side to save a few frames. For some reason, I go too much to the left and fall off. So, that’s why I don’t do it in my run but other runners and the TAS of the Any% of this game does.

It basically looks like this, done by Molotok

After that, we go a little to the left and do two jumps in quick succession.

Still taken from my 30 seconds PB.

The second jump is basically to lower the climbing time.

Comparing my PB to the world record, I notice that it’s mostly movement based. The fact that my snipes usually a little lower, and I don’t do the trick at the top of ladders. This costs me a ton of frames, making my 30 seconds run a bit slower compared to the world record.

After reaching the top, you have give or take 5 seconds of a small cutscene. I highly recommend you mash the A button at that time, since the faster the text box goes away, the better.

Now, when you do this ladder snipe and go for any%, the ending of this level is a bit different. The final scorpion isn’t present at ladder and Sophia doesn’t appear in the end credits scene. I honestly don’t know why, but it’s a unique difference between the Any% route and the “All Treasures route”.

Feedback requested

Now, before I get into the “All treasures” route of this level and the differences in a full game run and an ILS, I want to wrap up this article here. Because I want to hear from you all what you think. Would you want more articles like this? Where I talk about the route, techniques and all that? Do you want it in a different structure or in a different way? Is everything clear or are some parts confusing?

Writing about my speedrunning experiences is something I wanted to do for quite a while. Especially since this blog is a sort of diary of my gaming life and beside in update articles or on my Twitter, I haven’t really talked too in depth on my speedrunning. And since the PC & N64 routes are quite well documented, I thought it would be fun to do that for the GBC as well in my unique way.

I thought writing an article on my blog, giving the game more exposure would be way more fun than; how I wrote that guide about the locations of all the treasures in the PC version you can find on the resources page on the Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine speedrun page. So, this is really an experimental article and depending on your feedback… I’ll continue this series and/or improve it accordingly.

Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed it. I know it’s something else besides my usual game reviews and such, but I felt refreshed writing about something different and still have it game related. I enjoyed writing this so much, and I can’t wait to see, hear and read the reactions. If you all enjoy this, this’ll become another series on my blog until I have talked about every level in the game and talked about the full game runs.

And with that said, I think I have to say goodbye for now. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article about speedrunning this game and/or me talking about another game. But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Game Quicky: Invincible Cleopatra: Caesar’s Dreams Collectors’ Edition (PC) ~ Mummy’s At Work

Steam linkBigfish Games (Collectors Edition)

It’s no secret that I enjoyed playing casual games. If a game looks interesting to me, I want to give it a try. It doesn’t matter to me if the game is from a big studio or a small indie team of 1 or 2 people in their bedroom. Today, I want to talk about a game set in Ancient Egypt. Something I really have a weak spot for. Games set in old mythological settings like Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece… Sing me up! But, is this game worth your time as well or is this a guilty pleasure of mine? Let’s take a look at this game while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game.

Who let the mummy’s out?

In this game you play as Cleopatra. You are trying to save Egypt from an attack from the Romans. You have to collect resources and find your way to the next area, so you can confront Caesar to try and save Egypt before it’s too late. And how are you going to do that? By invading Caesar’s dreams of course by trying to find a special mysterious amulet. It’s inception levels of peace talks. The story is quite silly and I love it. While it’s not a story that’s going to bring you to the edge of your seat, it’s still a nice addition.

If you just look at this screenshot, you’ll have a rough idea on how this game works. I call these type of games: “Free the pathway puzzlers”. So basically, you have to free a way to the end of the level by sending your limited amount of troops to gather the various resources. Removing obstacles cost a certain amount of resources, so you have to think fast about which resources to gather first and which obstacle to remove first.

I bought the collectors’ edition from Bigfish Games. In this edition, you have an additional chapter with more challenging levels to enjoy. It also includes a strategy guide that you can use when you want to beat the game 100%.

But I find it more fun to use that guide when you are 100% stuck. It also doesn’t hold your hand in how to beat the game but gives very good advice and basically explains the strategy on which section you have to focus on. There is a bit more in the collectors’ edition like the complete soundtrack, some developer art and some wallpapers.

Now, I haven’t played a lot of these type of games, but this game is managing to make me interested to play more of these type of games. I just hope they are as high quality as this one. I especially enjoy the hidden gem in each level that is a small distraction if you are waiting on your mummies to return to base camp.

The visual and audiovisual presentation of this game is great as well. It doesn’t take long before you learn all the little things that the developers put in place to aid you. The visual indication when you are trying to do something impossible; the way it shows how the path is blocked. Or the little sound cue that plays when you haven’t beaten the developers’ time.

The difficulty curve of this game is excellent. It eases you into the game, and you learn the mechanics and the small details quite easily. I never really had a moment where I didn’t really understand a mechanic. The bulk of the challenge in this game is trying to remember and optimize everything you learned in the later levels.

The visual design of the level map is great. You can quickly see how many stars you have earned in a level and if you have found the hidden gem as well. Thanks to the minimalistic UI design, it’s extremely easy to understand and use. To the point that English doesn’t need to be your first language to enjoy this game. You’ll miss out on the story, but that isn’t the biggest strong point of this game.

This game isn’t too difficult. While it’s a big challenge to beat the developer’s time, you aren’t punished too hard when you don’t beat the time. There is no real “game over” screen. Which can be seen as a negative as well. But, I honestly see it as a positive. It gives something for completions to aim towards while more casual players can just relax and enjoy the game.

Who let the mummy’s out??!!

This game is best played in short bursts if you aren’t really into these types of games. Since the repetitive nature of this game can become boring if you keep playing it without a break. The core mechanics never really change and so far, 25 levels in… I haven’t seen a lot of variations on the formula.

Some achievements are quite unclear. There isn’t even a hint in the build in strategy guide. Which is quite a shame in my opinion. Especially since you don’t know if you need to play at a certain difficulty level to unlock it or not.

Especially when you can collect two types of stars. You have the yellow stars, and you have the green stars. I’m currently halfway into the game and I still don’t understand how to get those green stars. I even played several easy levels on the highest difficulty and I still didn’t receive green stars. Most likely, I’m overlooking something, and it’s easier than I think.

Something I find a bit disappointing is that you can see the complete strategy guide from the main menu. So, you can spoil yourself on all the boards of the game. But, this isn’t such a big deal since the strategy guide is quite lacking. It explains the steps is extremely basic terms. It’s not really a strategy guide but more of a hint system. Especially, because like I said before, it doesn’t explain how to get certain achievements.

While there is a tutorial, there isn’t a “help feature” in this game. So, when you haven’t played this game for a while, and you forgot what certain buildings do, you are out of luck. You either try to understand it from context clues or replay the first few levels in the hope you find the correct level. Thankfully, this isn’t such a big problem, since in most cases, the context clues gives you the right hints but still. Maybe it would have explained how to get the green stars?

There is one mechanic I wished they handled differently. And that’s the “skip level” feature. You can skip levels as soon as the level is loaded. This makes the game way too easy. I wish you were able to use that button after for example three failed attempts or finding the hidden gem in the level.

The final negative I wanted to talk about is how silent the game is. When I placed everything on max volume, I still was able to hear my Groove play music in the background. I totally forgot to close my music player when I started playing this game a bit while writing this article and I noticed that Groove was only at 10% of its max volume. I continued to test, and it turns out that this game is just quite silent. Which is a shame since the soundtrack is enjoyable and the sound clues are important during gameplay.

Conclusion

This game got quite close to being an amazing casual game. But the rough edges it has, can be a dealbreaker for some players. Thankfully, the rough edges aren’t such big dealbreakers that make this game unplayable.

I really enjoy playing through this Egyptian adventure. I’m happy that I gave this game a try, and I’m quite curious to see other games of the same genre. How different are they and are they as fun to play as this one?

If you know of any good games like this one, feel free to leave a comment. I do have a few in my collection. Maybe you’ll see a few of them on my blog in the future?

So, if you enjoy casual games or just want a relaxing game… This game might be up your alley. Maybe even this article convinced you to take a look at this game. Who knows?

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. 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: 4/5

Game Quicky: My Little Universe (Android) ~ Gather & Dump ’em boys.

Google Play StoreiOS versionFan subreddit

Finding enjoyable mobile games isn’t an easy task now-a-days. A lot of them have a microtransaction trap or are just filled with ads to the brim. And some of them, aren’t even that fun to play. But, when I notice that I start playing a mobile game for several hours and hours, play it on the train from and to work… Then, I know I found a mobile game that I want to talk about. In today’s article, I want to talk about My Little Universe. A game about grinding actually, something I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy this much. But, is it just me enjoying this game or is this game actually good? Let’s find out in this game quicky article where I talk about the positive, negative things about the game and the round it all nicely up with a conclusion bow. And if you want, you can leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: This review is written while playing v1.16.x branch. There were 3 smaller bugfix updates during me playing and writing this article.

Worth gathering

The idea in this game is that you gather resources to expand your island and repair the portal to the next world. All the while, you can upgrade your gear, battle monsters and explore the world.

Something I really like in this game is how you can’t buy these resources easily through microtransactions. This means that you don’t have to fear that this game locks you into a microtransaction loop.

There is an owl in each world that offers either a huge amount of resources, but these are totally optional. You don’t have to buy them to progress in the game or to “make the game playable”.

This game is extremely easy to learn and master. In terms of controls, you only need to know that you can move your character quite well by moving a virtual joystick. Mining and attacking all happens automatically. This game is also quite forgiving. When you die, you respawn at the last entrance.

Which you can use at your advantage. For example, in the second world in one of the caves you need a ton of stone. Since, the stone supply wasn’t all that good to gather in large quantities in the cave, I went outside to the mountains to gather them. When I felt I had enough, I just jumped in the water and let the sharks eat me to respawn at the cave entrance, so I didn’t have to make the long trek around.

This game controls extremely well, and I highly advise you to learn the timing on when resources respawn. This can be quite helpful to gather huge amounts of resources easily. At the start, you’ll gather only small amounts of resources from each location, so that’s why my second tip is to upgrade your pickaxe and axe. Since, they’ll increase the amount of resources you get from each mining session or even the speed.

If you regularly upgrade your tools, you rarely to never have to fear that you get stopped because you can’t mind the resources you need since your tool isn’t at a high enough level. And in terms of tools, you only have three of them. Your sword, your pickaxe and your axe. So, no real need of fearing that you need to upgrade a lot.

While the visual presentation is close to very good, I really like how the UI works. The UI shows only what you need to know. It hides the amount of resources you don’t need to know about. For example, if you aren’t working with resources from the first world, they are hidden. You can still use your backpack to see how much resources you have of what. You can also use that to locate certain resources when you need them. A big arrow will appear above your head to locate them.

This game automatically saves. So, you don’t have to worry that you loose progress when you exit the game. You’ll also restart at the last entrance you started at when you start the game.

This game is quite optimized. I never noticed slowdowns nor lag. Also, the loading times between locations is incredible. The amount of assets that are loaded in such a short time is just impressive.

The music and sound effects of this game are amazing. I really like them. They add a lot to the atmosphere and feeling of the game. I find it a bummer that I’m unable to easily listen to the soundtrack outside the game.

There is no real story in this game. So, that means that there is no real need for translation of this game. So, you don’t need to know English to play this game. But…

Let’s dump this

There is no real story in this game. Now, why did I place this in the negative part. Well, while I do understand and enjoy the roleplay potential that this game has, where your mind is able to run free what the worlds are supposed to be… I feel like a lot of chances for more atmosphere are missed. When I started the 3rd world, I felt like this game was missing something.

I just wish there was a little more character in the game. Like danger signs when entering a cave or more set dressing. The idea’s in how the worlds are designed are just amazing, but it lacks a bit of immersion. And I think a bit more set dressing can go a long way.

Maybe this is only on my phone, but there was a lot of Z-fighting happening in the game. Especially on the edges or bottom of textures. For those who don’t know what Z-fighting is, it’s basically when the game doesn’t know which texture should be displayed on top of which texture, and you get blinking textures where they alternate and try to be on top. It’s quite distracting if it happens on a large scale. I have added an example from Minecraft here.

Z-fighting in Minecraft with the stone fences. Taken from the bug tracker.

While I totally understand that a free game needs to have ads, I do want to talk about them. In most cases, the ads in this game aren’t that bad, but they are currently dangerously close to being quite annoying. I don’t have problems with the ad banner on the bottom, nor do I have a problem with the big resource piles you can get for free by watching an ad or the chance that you get a short ad after dying or going between worlds/caves. I do have an issue with the ads that play after you unlock a platform. These are sometimes too frequent and have the potential to break the gameplay flow somewhat.

Also, you can buy tickets to skip ads. And here they decided to do something I really dislike personally. You can’t choose to watch an ad and save your “skip ad ticket”. Thankfully you don’t lose one when an ad plays during other moments. Yeah, when you have those tickets, you can only skip those ads during picking up resources. These, thankfully short, ads still play when you travel between locations or respawn.

Depending on how you are with repetitive gameplay, this game can be boring in longer play sessions. I notice that when I play this game, I often play it in short bursts. Since there aren’t a lot of different mechanics besides gathering resources and placing them in the right location.

Something I don’t know if it’s the fault of the developers or the ad engines, but some ads can be quite annoying. Some ads appear to be playable, but then aren’t playable and appear blank. Others have an unresponsive skip or close button and take you to the App store. These should be able to be blocked by the developer if they have the chance since it shines a bad light on the game.

So, what now?

Personally, I enjoy playing this game. This game is fun to play in a short burst and respects the player. The ads walk that fine line of being acceptable and quite intrusive. Honestly, it depends on my patience level for them on that moment.

The fact that when you upgrade your gear, it’s also shown on the character. Visually, apart from the sometimes quite aggressive Z-fighting, this game looks quite polished for a mobile game. Together with a great soundtrack and sound effects, this game doesn’t have a lot of negatives.

True, the game can be repetitive in longer play sessions… But, that’s not such a big problem since this game autosaves, and you can easily play this game in shorts burst because of that.

If you enjoy casual games or games where you can wind down… Or you need easy to pick up and play games, I really think that this game is something for you. I really like to play this game during my breaks, while crossing my fingers that the ads aren’t too aggressive that time.

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

Score: 4/5

Game Quicky: The Rat Pack (Itch.io – PC) ~ The Rats Will Take Over

Itch.io page

Indie games can be unique. Today’s game is no different. Today, I want to talk about a game that’s created by the developers of that point-and-click game, Captain Disaster. I honestly expected a new point-and-click game when he contacted me via Twitter and when I heard it was going to be about rats, the edutainment collector part of my brain went directly to Mia: The Mouse, but this game is something completely different. It’s a TBS game, a turn-based strategy game. About rats? This is going to be unique. But, we need to ask, is this going to be the good kind of unique or the bad kind? Let’s find out in this 100% honest review of this game that I get a press review copy for. And yes, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or the game.

Good rats, pet them

I love this easter egg random event to bits.

The story of this game is about a colony of rats going for bigger and better. Starting off on a farm and going to the big city. I’m so happy that in terms of the story, this game isn’t doing anything silly and trying to put a fantasy spin or something on it… It feels realistic and stays in the background. It’s the perfect set dressing for the game. There is one random event, that I really love. I think you can guess which one is with the screenshot here.

Most of this game is spent on one screen. This is the game screen. There are 5 squares. Let’s start with the easiest to explain. You’ll have the yellow square in the top right, this is where everything that happens during your turn is shown.

The white square in the middle is one that shows special messages. I chose a beta screenshot here on purpose, since this random event message is now one of the various events that have a nice artwork accompanying it. But not every random event has a drawing.

Then, in the bottom left, you have the rat lab. This is your upgrades section. You have 4 things that you can upgrade, and these are essential. Depending on your lab level, you earn a certain amount of lab points per turn. You can upgrade the lab by scavenging for treasure. Each upgrade can improve the skills of your rats to avoid a game over. A game over is when your population reaches zero. That’ll cause you to restart the mission.

I could write a whole article explaining how this whole game works, but the tutorial does an amazing job of that. And not only that, the difficulty curve in this game gets a chef kiss from me. In each mission, a new mechanic is introduced, and you learn easily the amount of depth this game has. You learn when you can risk losing rats in your colony and when you urgently need to do something.

There are three difficulty levels, and you can finish this whole game playing on easy mode. But, the easy mode isn’t a cakewalk. You’ll need to learn the game and think carefully about what you want to do with your colony. And try to not get distracted by the amazing music this game has. Seriously, I would love to buy this soundtrack! Together with the amusing voice work and charming sound effects, the audiovisual presentation is quite good.

At first, I was worried that this game would be boring and repetitive. But, after playing 10 missions so far, I really have to say that I’m quite enjoying myself. With an easy to learn but tricky to master game, I’m impressed with this game. Sadly, there are a few things I didn’t really like, and I’m going to explain them in the next section of this article.

Bad rats, trap them!

So, what does this game do wrong? Well, first, there is no way to save mid-mission. Thankfully, this isn’t too big of an issue, since the missions themselves are sort. Well, I say short, but I have only played this game on easy and normal difficulty, so maybe it’s long on the harder difficulty?

The second negative of this game is a strange design quirk. Why is the pause button “F1” and not “Escape”? It really messed with my hardwired brain.

Overall, the UI design is excellent… But, there is something that would take it to the next level. Currently, when you beat a level, it gets a checkmark. And it doesn’t matter on which difficulty. I would love to see a different color checkmark depending on which difficulty you have beaten the level. Since, currently, the only way to see that is in the achievements’ menu which doesn’t even have a back arrow.

Another flaw in terms of the UI is in the red bottom right corner of the game screen. There are two things wrong with that in the version I reviewed. First, it doesn’t tell you the amount of treasure you’ll need to upgrade the attack and defense of your colony. Secondly, it doesn’t tell you when you can do a raid and how many raids you have done. This is somewhat annoying in some missions where you need to do 5 raids, and you didn’t keep count.

Something I personally missed was some animation in this game. Currently, all random events have a nice drawing, but the attacking and under attack events are too static. Either add a drawing or two for them or have some animation. It would polish up the game that much more.

And that’s about everything. So, shall we go on to the conclusion? Before I ramble on, and on.

So, what we RAT this game out?

Terrible pun aside for this final section of the article, is this game worth your time, or is this conclusion going to rip this game apart? Well, to be very honest, it’s the first. This game is really worth your time. Especially because most of the things I didn’t like about this game can be fixed and fine-tuned with an update or two.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this game to everyone. If you enjoy casual/puzzle and turn-based games, I would give this game a chance. But, don’t expect this game to be action-packed. This game is more on the calming and relaxing side. The charm of a small group of creators developing a game is oozing out of this one.

I would really pet this rat and not rat this game out. It’s a great game with some minor flaws. And I can’t wait to finish this game and maybe try the hard difficulty option. And maybe I’m even going to try to fill out that achievement page.

And with that said, I want to wrap up this article and thank you for reading it. 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: 70/100

Game Quicky: Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki (PC – Steam) ~ Riding The Message

Steam store page

Today, I want to talk about a game called Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki. A sort of interactive rollercoaster set in the old Soviet Russia. A game was created by a tiny team that created and published their first game. The developers reached out to me with a press code and asked me to write my 100% honest opinion on the game. So, is this game worth our time and our money, or should the developers try something else for their next project? Or should they stop creating games in the first place? That’s what I’m going to try and figure out in this article. And as usual, I invite to you leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Riding the message

This game is really simple to understand. There are two sections in this game. The riding and the puzzle-solving section. In the riding section, you can control the cart quite easily left and right. You’ll have to look out for holes in the tracks and maybe use different routes to overcome the hole. You’ll also have to disable electric gates, which you can do with your electric shock ability at the end of the wire of the electric gate.

This electric ability is also how you interact with puzzles. Almost all the puzzles are the exact same. You have to start a machine and then figure out the four numbers of the recipient of the message. This might sound boring and repetitive, but the puzzles are all well crafted and fun to solve. I was so happy that I had two monitors, so I could take a screenshot of the list of possible numbers to aid me in solving the puzzle.

These two styles of gameplay give the game a lot of variation. There are eight chapters in this game, and whenever you mess up, you start at the beginning of the chapter. But, everything is still unlocked. So, for example, when you opened several gates… These will stay open when you respawn. This might be a useful trick for speedrunners.

In terms of visuals, this game looks amazing. I have seen games that look several times worse at this price point. There are some rough textures, like at the start of the 2nd chapter and somewhere in the 3rd on the telephone pole, but these moments were far and few in between. The camera work is really stunning. The only thing I would improve a bit is making it a bit more clear when you are at the right spot to interact with a puzzle, gate, or something.

The music and sound effect are decent. Nothing too special in my opinion, but I feel they are good enough to fit the atmosphere and setting of this game. But something else that’s mind-blowing is how, after the first chapter, there are no loading screens in the whole game. And respawning only takes a couple of seconds.

The message is lost

In this game, you play as a capsule. You’re riding on a railroad towards your final location to deliver various messages. That’s the story of this game. Sadly enough, that’s literally IT in terms of story. Apart from some world-building with the puzzles, there is no real story in this game. Why are we delivering messages in this manner? It’s such a shame that for a game that looks as nice as this, there is no real story present.

I don’t mind games that are short in nature. Creating a game is quite difficult, and making unique puzzles is a tricky thing to do. But the runtime of this game is a real shame. This game took me only 2 hours to beat TWICE. Yes, twice. There are no different endings or different ways to beat the game. So yeah, the mechanics and ideas in this game are seriously under-explored.

In general, the controls are good. Yet, there are some things that can be polished up. First of all, you can speed up with the left-hand shift key. And if you have a right-hand shift key, well, that doesn’t work to speed up. Secondly, sometimes in bends, the key I was using to go forward didn’t move the cart forward and almost got stuck. And finally, apart from interacting with the space bar… there is no real “break” button for your cart.

There are some minor things I would have improved as well. For example, it’s quite tricky to control the puzzles in some cases. It’s not always clear what you can do and how to move in the puzzle itself. I think it would be a lot better if you could use the mouse during these sections. Since the mouse is on-screen and can only be used in the menus.

The UI in this game is good, but sometimes it does strange things like not remembering your language. But, the options’ menu is lacking in my opinion. You can disable the music, but there is no volume slider. So, you can’t disable the sound effects, either. The resolutions are quite strange as well. There is a 7680*4320 resolution? Also, the buttons are clickable from anywhere on the screen as long as you are at the same height as them.

But the BIGGEST no-no this game makes is when you finish the game and restart from an earlier chapter, be careful with your save then. Since, as soon as you beat a chapter… All your other progress gets erased. For example, you have beaten chapter 6 and want to replay chapter 1. So, you go back to the main menu, choose chapters, and start chapter one. You finish chapter one, and you go back to the main menu, to start chapter 6… You’ll notice that only chapters 1 and 2 are unlocked! Thankfully, the game is short, so you can go right ahead to the location you were in, but if the game were longer this would have been a grave issue.

A less grave issue is that there is no continue option in the main menu. That’s a bit of polish this game lacks. Like, the strange jitter effect you get when you ram into an electric gate. Or the fact, that you don’t get a visual notification when you finish a chapter besides going through a gate that closes behind you. And the final thing of lacking polish is that only going from chapters 1 to 2, you have a loading screen. When you start from any other point, you’ll get a black screen… Yeah.

And that’s honestly everything I could say about this game. So, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article with the conclusion.

Should the message be delivered?

This game is a decent game for the low price point of €9. But, at its current point, I wouldn’t pay anything more. Especially for the extremely short length of this game. There is so much more that could have been done with the concept and mechanics. For example, a puzzle where you have to deliver several messages in a certain order. Or having to open/close gates.

Besides that, like every other game… This game has some other flaws. Apart from the quirkiness with the chapters, I explained earlier, most of these negatives can be polished with a patch. Apart from the lacking story, of course.

If you enjoy casual puzzle games, I would certainly give this game a look. But, to the developers, I would say, keep working on this game. Keep expanding it with new content and mechanics. If this is your first released game, I would have to say bravo. There is a lot of potential here, and I would love to see longer and more in-depth experiences.

For a small passion project, this game turned out amazing. But, I want to see this game become more than a passion project. Since, when I had beaten the game, I felt cheated. I wanted to see more, play more, but it was over when I was really getting into it.

And with the said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you to another one. Until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 3/5

First Impression: Abyss of the Sacrifice (Switch) ~ Puzzlerooms To Sacrifice

Age warning: This game is 16+.

Wikipedia entryNintendo.com microsite

I might be a day late for Halloween, but today on the day after, I still want to talk about a somewhat horror related game. As regular readers of my blog know, I’m an avid fan of the Zero Escape trilogy. So, when I saw this game pop up on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I had to give it a try. I enjoyed my time with it that much, that it even slipped in my top 10 games of 2020. Why did I give this game a spot there? Well, let me explain why, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Puzzlerooms to sacrifice

This game follows the story of 5 girls who are left in the “Foundation”. This is a strange place underground that has been built for some reason that everybody has forgotten. It doesn’t take long before our 5 heroines meet each other and strange things like earthquakes start happening. And let’s not forget, since everybody is gone from the Foundation, food and water supplies are getting more difficult to come by every day.

I don’t want to talk much about the story, since it hinges on its mystery quite a lot. It’s that sort of story where you are left in the dark about everything right from the start, but the further you go in the story the more gets explained. I do highly recommend playing this game without a break like I did. I had to restart my playthrough since I completely forgot what was going on, and I got confused.

Something that took me by surprise is the fact that this game is fully voice acted, in Japanese. Now, this makes my job of reviewing this game a bit more difficult. I barely know any Japanese, so take what I’m going to say next with a grain of salt. But, I feel that the voice acting is pretty good. I really felt the emotional performance of the voice actors and I feel they did an amazing job.

Something I really did like is how there are some cliché characters, like your doctors’ girl and the patient that went in and out of hospitals but the interaction and the backstory of these characters is handled in such a unique way, it feels quite fresh and unique. The story itself is getting quite interesting at the moment where I’m at, and I’m so glad I choose the Switch version over the Steam version since now I can take it with me on the train from and to work.

Visually, the game looks amazing. The artwork really immersed me into the world and the story. Together with the great music and sound design, I really felt like I was exploring a mystery in the Foundation. Sometimes, an important item blended into the scenery, but it gave off a small sparkle, so you didn’t have to go pixel hunting.

I really like the hint system in this game. At any time, without a penalty, you can in the menu to the “Hint” system, and you can look at the hints. Only the hints that help you to get further in the puzzle are unlocked. The ones you need later in the puzzle aren’t accessible and not even shown. The minor negative you could say that this system brings is that it somewhat spoils the length of the room, but that’s a minor thing in my opinion.

You can play this game out of order. So, each time you finish a chapter, you unlock the next entries of the story of each girl. You can play them in any order you like. To avoid getting even more confused about what’s going on, I played them somewhat in order. But, it’s a great thing that if you get stuck on one puzzle, you can stop it and go to another girl to try on that puzzle later. And believe you me, the puzzles can get quite challenging. I even had to get out a pen and paper for several puzzles to solve it.

The controls and the UI of this game is something to be praised. The only minor negative thing is that there is no real autosave, but you can save easily at any time in an overload of save slots. The amount of options is a good to have, so that way you can adjust your experience to your liking. And the easy to learn controls are shown in the options menu in case that you forgot one or two buttons.

Escape is not needed

Sadly enough, this game does have some flaws. In terms of variation, this game doesn’t have a lot of it. This game is a visual novel with some escape the room elements thrown in. But, there are some things that the visual novel sections don’t do all to well. First, the contrast of the text with the background isn’t always the best. I sometimes had trouble reading the text. Thankfully, my English is pretty decent, and I can make out the words, but I can image that it’s going to be quite annoying for people who aren’t so good at English.

Something else that really bothered me is the fact that it’s sometimes a bit unclear who is talking to who in the dialogue sections. There is no real “speaking” animation. That’s a shame, since I’m that kind of person who has a hard time remembering names. I was so glad that in World’s End Club, you had that overview screen with the names and abilities. Even in the backlog it’s unclear who is talking.

Speaking of which, when I looked into the backlog of this game… I found some strange things in the writing. This game sometimes jumps from 1st person to 3rd person writing. A great example where you can get easily confused is this one:

Suddenly, she felt a sharp tug on her arm.

"Huh?"

I didn't fall....?

As she blinked in disbelief, a voice called out above her.

That’s exactly how it appears in the game. If only a different styling was used for thoughts OR keep writing in either 1st or 3rd person, this could have improved the writing.

There were some moments of frustration as well during the puzzle segments. For example, in one room, I had to pick up a robot from the cleaning station but the area I could click to pick it up was almost completely overlapped by the “Exit screen” UI. So, be really precise with your clicks or otherwise, you’ll be stuck while you have the correct solution. Thankfully, if you find the joystick movement controls a bit too fast like me, you can use the D-pad to solve that issue.

Sadly enough, some puzzles are a bit too tricky for my liking. Even with the hint system. One time I got stuck because I tried to combine item A with B, and it didn’t work… The solution was combining item B with A. Which brings me to talk about the interface you use to combine items. This interface is a mess in my opinion. It could have been designed a lot better, since if it wasn’t explained in the tutorial section… I would have forgotten how to use it and that it was even a mechanic.

You might have noticed that I didn’t talk about the animations in the visuals’ section of this review. That’s because, there was so much more that could have been done with the animations. I really felt that the game was a bit too static and comic-book like. There could have been so much more life into the game with a bit more animations. And in some cases, I had the impression that the animations lagged while the game was anything but lagging. But, I think it’s high time to get into the conclusion of this article before I start lagging myself and go rambling.

Conclusion

This game is the perfect example of getting pretty close to greatness but missing the mark. This game has so much going for it. The amazing artstyle, the music, the concept, the atmosphere… I don’t regret my decision to include this game in my top 10 games of 2020.

Yet, this game lacks some polish which is a real shame. Since, I can truly see some people skipping this game because of it. It even makes it a bit difficult for me to recommend this game.

When I saw the scores that other reviewers were giving for this game, I was a bit annoyed. I felt that this game was getting too low scores for what’s offered here. This game tells a great story of 5 girls trying to survive and trying to figure out what happened to the world. But some technical issues hold it back. Some can be solved with a patch like the issues with the script and such, but others like the animations… That is going to need either a big patch or a remake.

But, if you enjoy games like the Zero Escape games or Corpse Party, I would say… Check out this game. Give it a chance. But, know that this game has some flaws and you best play it without too long of a break to fully enjoy this game. I personally think that this game is totally worth your time, maybe on sale. And as soon as you get use to the quirks, the negatives aren’t too bad. So, this review is luke warm, but warm enough to recommend it with caution.

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

Game Quicky: Mystik Belle – Enchanted Edition (Switch) ~ The Metroidvania Witchschool Adventure

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

So, I was browsing the Nintendo Switch eShop one day and I came across this game. Without doing a lot of research, I bought it since it looked like an interesting indie Metroidvania game. I didn’t know that a big studio like WayForward helped the developers Last Dimension in publishing this game to the Nintendo Switch. For some reason, I didn’t realize that this game is a port either. Even with the subtitle “Enchanted Edition”. In any case, I was also surprised to learn that this game is created in GameMaker Studio. A tool I used to learn about game development when I was younger. But, with that said, how is the actual game? Is it worth your money or should you rather focus on the original edition or is this a game you could skip without hesitation? Well, I’m here to give you my opinion and while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Witchschool

Usually, I write something myself to explain the story. But, the way the developers described the story is so good, I’m going to quote it here:

Being a student of mysterious art is a daunting task, doubly if you are Bell McFay – a freshman at the Hugmore Magic School. The teachers and staff are mean, I have few friends, and my grades are poor. Worst of all – Bell tends to be in the wrong place at worst. When she stayed up late to practice the magic of fire, for example tonight, but was instead assembled to confuse ancient rituals. And is there a better way to punish the unlucky first-grader than to prosecute her for an impossible job on the worst night of the year? Reproduce or exile Walpurgisnacht Brew. The sound of expulsion is beginning to improve as all types of spies hijack the school.

Official story on the eShop page

There is no voice acting in this game, so the story is told through text boxes and the environment design. Overall, the writing in this game is good. It sets up the arc of the game nicely without a lot of technobabble to pull you out of the experience. It’s quite difficult to review the story of this game because this game is somewhat short. This game takes around 5-ish hours to beat.

Usually, in these short games, I expect the story to grip me and focus more on telling a good story with interesting mechanics like Super Liminal or There Is No Game. Yet, this game doesn’t do that. I’m not saying that the story is bad, it’s just that this game focuses more on the gameplay and it’s puzzles than the overall story. This isn’t such a big negative in my eyes. While, yes, the setting and the atmosphere gives the story a lot of potential… I’m just extremely happy that it’s not bloated or is just filler to make the game longer. It’s to the point and quite enjoyable.

This game almost plays like your typical Metroidvania game. If you don’t know what a Metroidvania game is, compare it to games like Monster Tale, Blossom Tales, Lenna’s Inception amongst others. You explore large area’s where you learn new skills and abilities to help you on the way and discover secrets. Now, what this game does special is that this game has also a focus on puzzle elements and a whole inventory mechanic. In extremely rough terms, this game is a giant fetch quest in a Metroidvania game.

And it’s a lot of fun. I love exploring the school and trying to figure out which abilities I’m going to get to explore more of the castle. The responsive controls were so easy to learn that I was able to get the hang of the mechanics quite easily. The only thing that is different compared to your typical Metroidvania games is that there are no save rooms in this game. The game autosave when you change rooms. But that’s anything but a negative, to be honest.

Now, there are two ways to play this game. You can play through this game with warp chests, that help you with your inventory and makes the game a bit easier. It also gives you the option to choose if you restart the room or start from the counsel room. Or you have the harder difficulty, where you don’t have: warp chests, restart the room and the enemies hit harder. So, you can play on the difficulty you enjoy.

I really love shooting my fire spell around and leveling it up when I killed more enemies. I really liked running around this school with the amazing pixel art and animation. The game looks amazing, and the level design is well done for a Metroidvania game. While the level design makes the school feel less like a school since you don’t see a lot of classrooms and weird architecture, the pixel art is so good-looking and well-designed that it doesn’t bother me at all. (Only my really harsh critic side, tho.)

Not only does the game have amazing visuals and animations, the music is a jam. It’s amazing chiptune by Dan Rogers. I have listened to it while writing this article and I liked it so much that I decided to buy the whole soundtrack from Dan Roger’s Bandcamp I linked earlier.

Something that’s quite impressive is that this game is the love child of Andrew Bado. He placed so much love and care into the game. I mean, he even made an option where the dialogue is child-friendly in the PC version. Yes, an option! That’s something I can applaud. If only this came to the Switch version.

Almost there, Bell

I have thrown quite a lot of praise towards this game, but I’m sad to say that this game does make a few mistakes or things I don’t like. Let me first talk about the health system. There is one thing I didn’t like at all. That’s the way you heal. To heal, you have to pick up hearts that can randomly drop from enemies. The hearts drop where you kill the enemy. So, if you kill the enemy while it’s in the wall, since your projectiles go through into the wall… Your health pick-up is going to be stuck in the wall. And those don’t get attracted when you get close.

Also, there is no “quick heal” method or room. The health you have is the health you start with when you respawn or restart the room. So, when you are low on health, you better find a room where you can grind enemies to grind the health drops to get back to full health. This is one of the few moments where the game just stopped in its tracks, to be honest. Granted, you could restart at the counsel room with full health, but then you have to backtrack all the way… That isn’t fun.

Now, here is something I really found annoying. This game has an amazing mini-map, but why can’t I look at it with more detail? In this game, you have to gather and manage a lot of items. Around 60 in fact. And they are spread out over the whole map. But, remembering which item goes where is a real pain. Either having a quest list and/or which character is where it could have helped so much. Thankfully, the map is rather small, so going through all of it and trying out which item goes where wasn’t such a pain. Yet, I really missed a feature a like that in this game.

Sadly enough, there is actually a second thing I don’t like about the health system. There is this mechanic where you are able to kill enemies by just colliding with them. But this costs health. Now here is the issue with that, the sound effect and visual feedback is so similar to normally killing enemies it’s confusing. Something to improve this would be another sound effect if Belle gets hit compared to when she kills an enemy. Since, overall, the sound effects are excellent.

One of the final things I want to talk about is the pacing. In this game, you need to get three ingredients and something that really surprised me is that the second act is short. But this is an extremely minor complaint, a nitpick even. As big as a nitpick as the I find it a shame that some nice designs like statues go to waste since they are mostly in the dark. But, then again, it adds to the atmosphere and gives off a slightly creepy vibe.

Now, I think it’s high time for the conclusion, don’t you think? A summary of what I think in general about this game and trying to answer the questions I asked in the introduction of this article.

Let’s play or let’s play?

Is this game worth your time? Yes, yes it is! While the game has some annoying things like I talked about in the previous section, I really think that the positives highly outweigh the negatives for this game.

Now, if you would ask me… Which version should I play? Then, I have to answer the enchanted edition on Switch. It’s quite difficult to answer what’s new in this version since you don’t have an official change log but reading from the Twitter feeds of the developers it seems that it’s mostly a graphical upgrade and various tweaks to make the experience more enjoyable.

It also looks like this game is going to have a sequel or expansion from what I’m reading on the developers twitter feed.

I’m so glad that I gave this game a chance, since because of this game I discovered a very passionate developer that loves creating charming games like this one. I really enjoyed my time with this game, trying to figure out which item goes where. While it’s tempting to use a walkthrough, I highly advise that you don’t. There is barely any moon logic in this game, and it feels so much more rewarding to play it blind.

The charm of this game is just amazing. Mystik Belle is a hidden gem that more people should know of and play. This game has so much potential even while I haven’t finished the original, I’m already hyped for new content that’s upcoming.

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