Preview: Conquer Humanity (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Go Rouge.

Steam page

In this article, I’m taking a look at a game that’s going to release in the first half of 2023. The developer send me a Steam key for the full version that’s still in development. But, if you get interested in playing this game right after this article, there is a demo available on the Steam store page. In this article, you’ll also get my 100% honest opinion on the game. I’ll take a look at what I played and what I think should be in the full version. So, should we conquer humanity, and should we become a super villain like the Steam store page suggests, or should we wait until this is a bit more polished or skip it outright? Well, that’s what I’m trying to discover with you in this article. And as usual, feel free 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.

Editoral note: the release of the full version is set in Q1 2023 at the time of writing.

Simulation Devil

In this game, you enter a simulation where you are a super villain with various powers. Your goal is to destroy and kill as much as you can before you are defeated yourself.

You do this in a very large map where people are spawned around you. But, the more destruction you cause, the more police will come after you.

To defeat the game, you’ll have to reach level 30. The more people you kill, the more XP you’ll get. If you get a great kill streak and do it in style you’ll get a better ranking and earn more XP and do more damage that way. Compare the style thing to Devil May Cry in a way.

This game is anything but easy. You really have to manage your powers and movement strategically. Since, the smallest mistakes get brutally punished. You have ten lives and no way to get any back. You are able to heal, but you’ll have to kill for that. So, getting surrounded might be your end.

This game is described as a brutal, fast-paced, isometric bullet hell. And I honestly can’t describe it better. For this review, I have played several rounds and I had a really hard time getting further than level 15. I’m a bit on the fence on the difficulty curve, since I honestly think that with one change… This game can become way more fair.

The big issue with this game is that you are directly thrown into the deep end. You are dropped into the simulation with 6 powers on a cool down and a few other mechanics. You barely have any chance to get used to everything, since after a few kills… The police spawns, and you have to be quick on your feet. Now, you do have the sandbox mode to get used to the game. Yet, here the powers aren’t on cooldown, and you don’t see the blue level up bar or the powers.

I think it would give the game a better flow if the player is nudged first to the sandbox mode where you have to reach something like level 10 using the different mechanics. Since, I felt close to overwhelmed with all the different mechanics and I felt that I first had to figure a lot of things out before I was able to attempt the actual game mode.

I don’t want to sound like “this game is too difficult for me, make it easier…”. I just feel that if you give new players too many mechanics at once without them having a way to learn them or practice them, they aren’t going to have a fun time. And I think if you add a mode or a few optional tutorial stages to get used to the game would be a blessing. And I really mean, optional. So people who want the experience of jumping into the deep end can still do it. But, others who want to know how everything works can ease themselves into the game. Since, if I’m brutally honest, the controls manual is helpful if you know how everything works. It’s too bare bones for newcomers. Like, why not add the icons of the powers in the controls manual?

Did it fail?

This game is difficult, and it’s a game you will have to get gud at. Once you learn the different powers and when to flee, this game is actually quite enjoyable. This game has the “one more attempt” mentality nailed down. After you are defeated, you can get right into the action in seconds and try again.

The game also has a built-in timer, which can open the gates for speed runners and other competitions as well. Maybe it would be fun to have a leaderboard with the fastest times and the longest survival times in the full game.

And maybe like an endless mode that started on easy and at certain level milestones, it goes to a higher difficulty?

Are there other things I would like to see in the future? Of course! First, I’d love to see a way to change the key binds. It’s something I mention quite often in my PC reviews, but I get annoyed when the game forces WASD on you and don’t keep in account that there are a lot of countries which have another keyboard layout. Here in Belgium, we use an AZERTY layout, and that means I have to set my hand in a pretty weird spot to move. Since our “A” is where the “Q” is and our “W” is where the “Z” is. And then the powers having keys close to WASD… I only have two hands and I still have to control the mouse.

Speaking off the mouse, I think a controls flaw is created there. I noticed that I had trouble preforming my push move because that was clicking with your scroll wheel. Which is all good and well, but using your scroll wheel actually zooms in or out. So, if you didn’t click in the chaos of this game, and you actually scrolled, well… Yeah, that’s an attack that didn’t happen. Which is sadly not limited to the push attack. There is another attack that I feel either isn’t as powerful or the visuals don’t communicate it’s power/range enough. When pressing Control, you can do a slam down attack. But, it’s not only unclear how big the radius is… it’s also unclear how strong it is.

In this game, it’s important that the visuals communicate with the player what’s happening. All in all, the visuals feel “last gen” but I honestly don’t mind that. It optimizes the game quite a lot, and you get a stable game to play. Also, it makes it easier to read what’s going on around you and makes it easier to make the right decision. I think it would be handy in the future to have a sort of radar in the right corner. Since, it would be helpful to know where the police and such are if you flew too far away.

Speaking about flying, that’s something I want to address as well. In the small manual, it teaches you that you can start hero mode by pressing “H” when you reached at least the “A” style rank. Yet, when you start the game, you get a free hero mode and only get a “B” rank. Now, it’s unclear that the message of “A” style rank still has to be on the screen or not… But there isn’t a way to know if you can activate hero mode or not.

In addition to that, I think there might be something strange going on with the flying… Since, once you lose your first life, you loose hero mode. And when you press the fly button then, you sprint away. Very slowly, sprint away. Yet, I had trouble starting to sprint several times when I press moving.

It’s early simulation

Reviewing or talking about early access games is quite tricky. Especially when they are still in development. You never know in how much detail you should go since a lot of things can change when you get the final product.

For example, I really like the animation system in this game. It’s goofy and gory, which fits this game like a glove. Especially when you make a great combo attack… The slowdown to show you the result of your attack is eye candy. And sometimes a much-needed small break in all that intense action.

That’s something I sometimes missed in this game. A spot or a moment to get a breather from the action. It’s intense all the way through, and you can’t let your guard down at all, or you are done for. And your ability to earn any of the achievements is done for.

Another example is that sometimes there is no music during gameplay. I had several times when the track just stopped playing and no new music track started. Sadly, it ruins the atmosphere, but I think this is something that will be fine-tuned and patched when the game releases.

Speaking of the music, the music is a nice heavy metal track that plays. I really enjoy it, and I’m curious to hear the full soundtrack once the game goes out of early access. Since, it’s the perfect music genre for this style of game. In terms of sound effects, this game is fine but still has some work. Sometimes you hear “god dammit” and I can’t say if it’s my character getting damage or a human dying.

Something I’m really on the fence about is that this game doesn’t have a save system. So, that means you’ll have to do each run in one sitting. I think that’s a shame since if you are in a good run and something happens like automatic Windows updates restarting your computer out of nowhere… It’s the end of the run. And failed runs don’t count for your “best run” in the main menu.

Finding the right balance between challenge, fun, and options is extremely tricky. I have no clue how to implement a save system during a run of this game. And it might open the door for a lot of other issues.

Just like deciding on the cooldown period of your powers. Personally, I feel that sometimes the cooldown is a bit too brutal. Quite often, I felt that the laser power cooldown was a bit too slow. Maybe I’m using the wrong strategy of running away from the cops and trying to kill the small gatherings of humans I left around the map, but the cops are faster than your laser power can regen.

So, what do I think so far of Conquer Humanity? Well, I think this game has an addictive concept where the fundamentals are here. It has that “one more try” and “one more round” written all over it. But, it still needs some polish with the controls and animations. Its biggest flaw is currently that the game doesn’t really explain all its mechanics enough for players to learn how everything works. So for newcomers to these type of games, it’s not the game to get into the bullet hell genre.

I recommend that you give this game a shot and give your thoughts and/or opinions to the solo developer since I think that this game has a lot of potential to be an amazing small indie title to test your skills at crowd control and bullet hell. I might be brutally hard, but it’s a game that feels rewarding for the small progress you made. I highly recommend this game to everybody who is looking for an action/arcade type game and looking for a great challenge with it. Since, there is a lot of game to learn here and it’s going to beat you, several times.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game in this preview. I might take a look at this game once it’s released to see what’s the finished product is. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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

Steam store page

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

Let’s save the snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let the snow melt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, what’s the snow quality

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 7,5/10

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

Steam store pageOfficial website

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

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

A story discussion

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s please the crowd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For seven years?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. This amazing gem of a passion project game that’s worth your time if you enjoy action fighting games with unique mechanics. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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.

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: 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

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!