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!

First Impression: Arietta of Spirits (Switch) ~ Being Bound

Nintendo.com subsiteOfficial website

Family traditions are such a big part of families. One of the biggest family traditions in my family is that at least one person goes to the seaside each and every year. It’s a tradition I don’t want to see end since it brings back so many memories, and it’s also where my love for collecting games started. The amount of garage sales and flea markets I did at the seaside, I can’t count on two hands. Anyway, today I want to talk about a game that means a lot to me currently and also talks about family traditions. And that’s Arietta of Spirits. A little indie game by Third Spirit Games and Red Art Games. It caught my attention since it looked like an interesting Zelda-ish clone, and it reminded me of games like Blossom Tales. But is this game as good as that one? Let’s find out together, shall we? But before we start, 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.

Being bound

In this game, you take on the role of Arietta. After the passing of her grandmother, here family takes a trip to her house on the island. Now, it doesn’t take a long time before Arietta discovers that she has a special ability when she meets a mysterious friend. She can see and talk to the spirits on the island. And not only that, she can help them move on.

Currently, I’m midway in the story and while this game has a good setting, writing and atmosphere, I feel that’s something is missing. The story is currently a bit “loose”. There is not really an overarching reason to move the story forward. If you asked me to explain what happens in the story of this game, I can talk about the characters you meet and their stories but the reason why you meet these characters and what Arietta’s end goal is… I can’t tell. Of course, there is a line in the story that “explains” it, but it’s so generic…

Now, this doesn’t mean that this game has a weak story. Far from it. The character development and writing in this game is pretty nice. But, there is a lot of wasted potential because this game is rather short. There is so much more that can be done with the story and idea, but the game is over when it really gets started.

There is no real voice acting in this game apart from some grunts by our main character. So, if you don’t like that, this isn’t the game for you. Yet, the dialogues are somewhat fast-paced and flow pretty nicely. One of the taglines of this game is that this game doesn’t have a lot of filler moments and this is quite true. This game has some side quests but barely any filler at all. Yet, I felt that some moments might have left a bigger impact if the story didn’t go on such a break neck speed.

Entry level Zelda game

If you have played games like Blossom Tales or any 2D Zelda game, you’ll feel right at home. This game is your typical 2D Zelda game where you go from dungeon to dungeon and defeat bosses. Well, they aren’t really dungeons, it is more themed area’s, but explaining that would spoil parts of the story. But, there are some unique mechanics in this game.

For example, there are two types of enemies. The first type are your normal overworld enemies. And sadly, they are your “generic” bee/bats. But, they have interesting movement patterns and learning and avoiding them is quite fun. Apart from maybe dropping a health pick-up, these enemies aren’t anything to write home about.

The other type of enemies are the “spirit” enemies. These are trickier to defeat, and after defeating these, you’ll earn crystals. Earn enough crystals to fill up a demon core, and Arietta grows stronger. It’s quite easy to farm these crystals, since enemies respawn when you leave and re-enter the area. But, I dislike the fact that when a certain core is filled, you can’t pick up any more crystals. Well, you can pick them up, but it doesn’t raise your total.

So, when you have enough crystals to power up your Roamer Cores, power it up right away. Otherwise, you’ll lose various crystals and have to grind for them. You can power your core up in the inventory menu under “Roamer Cores”.

Speaking of the inventory menu, why are there two menus in the Switch version? You have a pause menu and an inventory menu. The pause menu is opened with the “+” button and the inventory menu with the “-” button. It trips me up. Then again, I totally understand why this is the case in how the menus are designed. That’s why I call the “-” the inventory menu since it’s really the menu where you can see the inventory, your goals, your achievements… While the pause menu is more of an options menu.

A bit higher, you can see the inventory menu. From that screenshot, you can also see the various other mechanics. Like, the tasks where you have to find hidden items and the amount of hidden spirit cubs you have found. Now, you might think that you’ll need the item’s menu often, but alas. The opposite is true.

There aren’t a lot of puzzles in this game. I’m even having a hard time saying there are puzzles in this game. Maybe the fact that you need to figure out how to defeat the bosses most optimally but other than, that… There aren’t really any puzzles in this game. And if there are, they aren’t cryptic or challenging enough to matter.

Something that’s extremely puzzling is the fact that there is no world map of any kind to speak off. Thankfully, this isn’t a huge game, but the lack of a world map really hurts sometimes. Especially when I want to explore an area to complete a task. It adds so much more time roaming around. You could also argue that it makes the game a bit more realistic since when you are exploring an island, you don’t have a map either… But you can either make one or have a map printed out from the internet.

Once you get the hang of the responsive and easy to master controls, this game isn’t too challenging at all. This game really feels like it’s an entry level adventure game. And you can look at this in two ways. It can be either a relaxing time to enjoy the story, but it can be boring since it’s not “engaging” or challenging.

Thankfully, this game has difficulty options. I started on the normal difficulty and found it too easy. So, after getting halfway in the game, I wanted a bit more challenge. So, I had to use the dodge, shield mechanics more to defeat enemies and not rely on health drops from cutting down bushes. I wanted to start a new save file on extreme, and I learned I wasn’t able to skip cutscenes. I sighed, and I continued playing my “normal difficulty” save file. I can totally understand that when you play through a game for this first time you are unable to skip cutscenes, but the fact you can unlock an additional difficulty after beating the game and the fact I can’t skip cutscenes worries me a bit. But, maybe you have that option then…

Joyful lost

So, because this game doesn’t have a world map… I have to admit that I got lost a few times. But, it didn’t matter too much. I really enjoyed being able to explore the island. Especially since the pixel art and design of this game is gorgeous. I really love the visual presentation of this game. I also love the animation quite a lot.

The animation makes the game a lot more immersive, but it makes the game also easier. Since the enemies telegraph their attacks so bluntly, it makes it easier to avoid. Now, there is this small mechanic that I really like.

At first, I wanted to talk about how when you have low health in this game, you barely get any feedback from the game. But then, I noticed something. My joycons vibrated in a heart beat whenever I was on low health. This is genius. The only small touch I would add is a bit more visual feedback on the screen since when you are fighting, you might miss that rumbling, especially since you are quite focused on dodging enemies and such.

Something I also quite like in this game is how the roll is handled. You can roll around to get faster to your destination, but you have stamina. The more you roll, the more fatigued Arietta gets and the shorter her rolls are. You can see how tired Arietta is by the amount of sweat dripping down her face. This really makes me think what the most optimal way is to roll and go fast. Since, there is no sprint button.

Sometimes, I got lost in area’s with a lot of enemies. The first time I got a game over, I was quite worried where I was going to respawn. But, this game is quite forgiving in that. You respawn at the start of the screen you died at. When you die at a boss, you start right at the beginning of the battle. It’s quite nice to get directly back into the action and not have to go through the whole dialogue of the boss again or having lost a lot of progress. The game auto-saves every time you change in a screen.

The final thing I want to talk about is the audiovisual presentation of this game. Let’s start with the sound effects. These are amazing. The sound effects really help you to prepare yourself for the upcoming map and to take the right actions in combat. For example, the flying bat screeches before it flies at you, so when you hear it… You know that it’s time to dodge. But, the sound effects can be helpful too to find cubs. When you get close to one, you hear it shouting. It has a distinct sound effect that really helped me find the more hidden ones.

This brings me to the music of this game. The calm vibe and atmosphere of the game really comes through in the music. The soundtrack mostly feels like lounge and relaxing music. But, it can be quite tense when it needs to. Especially the battle music. But it fits the game like a glove.

Now, what do I think overall of this game? I haven’t beaten it yet, but what is my conclusion after getting past the midway point of this game? The charm and love of this game is something quite unique. This game does have some flaws like no overworld map, more puzzles, being able to skip cutscenes…

But, what bothers me the most is that the potential of this story and setting isn’t used to its full potential in this short game. Yet, like I said earlier, the charm of this game makes up for quite a lot of it. I can totally understand that some people might not really like this game or get bored with it, but this game really got its hooks in me. For me, this game is an easy recommendation if you are looking for a nice and relaxing game to spend an afternoon or two.

What this game proves to me is that I’m going to keep an eye out for further projects from the developers, since I really think they have a lot of potential. I’m curious what they are going to do next. If they are going to make a sequel to this game, you can be sure I’m going to buy it. The charm and love of this game is infectious.

I really enjoyed playing through this game and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. It’s really a relaxing game, and it comes at the right moment in my life when I need something to calm me down after busy work days. This game is really a case of the positives outweighing the negatives for me. But, I’m repeating myself. So, it’s time to close off this article by saying my usual:

Thank you so much for reading my 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 one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Amid Evil (PC – Steam) ~ Champion!

Steam pageWikipedia entry

In the near future, Amid Evil will have new content named The Black Labyrinth. Now, this is quite extincting, since this gives me an amazing opportunity to talk about the base game. Since, this game comes from the same studio that brought us the amazing retro-style shooter Dusk and does it live up to that name, or should we totally look elsewhere? Should we leave this game amid evil, or should we save it from evil? Well, that’s what I want to figure out with while writing this article with my first impressions about the game. So, let’s dive right into the game and talk about it, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game. So, Amid Evil… What do you get for us?

Champion !

Amid Evil is being called the spiritual successor to games like Hexen and Heretic. That’s quite a high bar to set since I really enjoy Heretic. I love the concept, and I was quite impressed with it. I remember discovering Heretic through a website that shared old DOS shareware versions of games. Now, before I get side tracked and this article turns into a half Heretic review, let’s focus on the game.

In Amid Evil, you play as one of the last standing heroes that is tasked with saving various worlds. In this game, the evil forces already took over and it’s to you, the Champion to save them. And in terms of story, that’s mostly it. This shooter pulls you right into the action. That’s not to say, that this game doesn’t have any story. Each episode has a lot of world building and builds up the various evil forces that took over those worlds in a unique theme, but if you are looking for a shooter with a strong overarching story, I’m afraid that you might be disappointed with this game.

To avoid spoilers, I’m going to talk about the next bit somewhat vague. But there are 7 episodes in this game, with each episode having 3 levels each and then a boss fight. In each level, there are various moments of lore and world building that if you really spend time with it, it tells an amazing story. The game tells just enough for you to let your imagination run wild and fill in the “story gaps”.

Due to the story taking quite the backseat in this game, there isn’t a lot of voice acting in this game. Apart from the Champion’s pain grunts, jump sounds and alike… There is only one character that really says lines. That’s the voice of the ancients, who is played by Tamara Ryan. She did an amazing job in voicing that character. I really enjoyed her comments when I returned to the level hub. And also, I wasn’t able to find out who voiced the main character, but the voice work there is amazing as well.

Now, if you have read earlier articles from me, you might expect that I’m going to say that it’s a shame that the story take such a backseat, but you would be wrong. I think the execution and the pacing of the story in this game is excellent. The story is told through the world building and because of this, each episode feels like a sort of anime arch/season with a start, middle and end. Especially, because each episode tells a different story with different enemies and ways you have to defeat the levels. The only thing that remains the same are the weapons and their abilities.

Something that remains the same are the controls. Those smooth and amazing controls. I really like how in control I feel of the Champion I play as. I also like things like the fact you can even choose how your crosshair looks in the options menu. That’s so lovely and allows you to add that personal touch to the game that I really love.

It’s shooting time

At it’s core, this game is an old-school linear shooter. The best way to somewhat explain the gameplay of this game is take games like Dusk or Blood, and put them in a dark fantasy setting. So, in this game, you through long levels, shooting your way through various enemies with various weapons. While going through the levels, you also have to hit switches, flip levers, make jumps, hunt for keys to open doors and maybe find secrets along the way. With a handy press of the tab button, you can easily see how many enemies and secrets there are left, but also your time in the level. So, there is an in-game time mode for speedrunners. Lovely.

So, let’s talk about the weapons you can use in this game. The “infinite ammo” weapon in this game is the Axe of the Black Labyrinth. It’s a rather strong weapon, but it’s extremely slow. I’m quite sure that this weapon was my least used weapon because of that slow speed. You also had to get up close and personal with the enemies for it to have effect, and the hectic and fun combat of this game doesn’t always allow that. Since, health in this game is rather precious. I’m not saying that this game is brutal, but if you don’t understand how the enemies work, the can become a lot of trouble.

Maybe the first shooting weapon in this game might be of help. It’s what I call “an upgraded version of Heretic’s staff” and it’s called the Staff of the Azure Orb in this game. While it’s far from the strongest weapon in the game, it was one of my favorite weapons to use. This is a water based weapon, so if you hit flame enemies with it, you deal some extra damage. But then again, water based enemies are immune to this weapon. So remember that well when you are fighting to use another weapon in case of water spirits.

Another weapon like the Whisper’s Edge. It might give you an edge in combat since it’s a sort of “shooting sword”. And not like you shoot energy beams from the top of the blade, oh no. You shoot “slashes”. This is a slow weapon, but it’s a very strong weapon. I see it as the shotgun of the weapons in this game. If you use it well, you can deal a lot of damage, quite fast. And that’s handy since this game likes to put you into tight rooms with a lot of enemies with their unique quirks. It’s essential to understand the weapons and the enemies in each episode, since that knowledge will help you survive the episode.

Like in the original DooM, each enemy has their own unique cry and sound effect. Learning these sound effects and playing this game with a good headset or surround system is a must. It helps you quite a lot to avoid dying over and over again in the chaotic and addictive battles. Something that also helped quite a lot is the Voltride. This is Poseidon’s trident combined with Zeus’ thunder in weapon form. Oh, do I love this weapon since it’s such a strong weapon, but it eats through your mana so quickly.

Speaking of mana, there are three types of mana in this game. Blue, Green and Orange mana. I really like the attention to detail that this game has with giving the ammo count the same color as the mana you need to pick up to power it. The first weapon in the roster with orange mana is the Celestial Claw. This bazooka of a claw shoots actual planets, and sometimes even our own Earth! Man, I love to use this weapon to try to hit a lot of enemies at once while circle strafing around the room.

The next weapon on the list if the Star of Torment. This weapon has its use cases. This is a weapon you need to learn how to use, since it’s not your typical “gun weapon”. The Star of Torment is a weapon that can cause not only splash damage to nearby enemies, but it can also nail enemies to the floor and/or walls if used correctly. I like to use it in crowded rooms to quickly damage the biggest enemies, they are easy pickings when I’m focusing myself on the weaker enemies.

My last case scenario is the Aethurnum. This weapon is quite close to a small screen nuke. It will rip out the souls of the enemies quite easily. And with these souls, you can charge up your soul meter. At a certain point, your soul meter is full and you can activate a sort of “rage mode”. In this mode, your weapons are stronger and do a lot more damage, but they also eat you a LOT more of your mana. I’m not going to spoil the alternate attacks of each and every weapon but let’s just say that the slow weapons aren’t slow anymore.

There is no armor in this game, so that means that you really need to be careful while playing this game, so you don’t die. In the levels, there are also red orbs you can collect that heal you. But be careful, sometimes it’s more recommend to either safe the orb and pick it up later, since it might not be the only time you pass through the section. But, if you learn the enemy attack patterns and really dive into how this game works, you might be able to even pass up some of those health pickups since, full is full.

Worship or not?

Visually, this game does a lot right. This game is the best cross between old school 3D shooters on the PS1, while it looks quite modern as well. The artstyle and theming in this game is superb, and if only I had a stronger gaming PC to see how the new DLSS visuals look like. Since, from what I have seen in the promotional material, the game looks even better.

As I said earlier in this article, the story in this game really takes a backseat, and the game tells you just enough to fill in the details with your imagination. Well, a lot of that has to do with the amazing work the developers did in theming each episode. For example, one episode is quite industrial themed. So, you go through old machines, use giant cog wheels to go around while you avoid robots with lasers. Another episode is more medieval themed, so you will see knights and soldiers hunting you down.

In terms of the UI, I don’t have anything I would change. I really like how you quickly get all the information you need from it. It shows you on the left, your health and your soul power and on the right, your mana and the acquired weapons. Combine that with the beautiful animations as this game has, and the package is complete.

For real, the way how enemies go into a stun animation or die, it told me all the right information I needed to know to try and survive the rather hectic fights. The same counts for the bosses. While they are quite challenging, they telegraph their attacks quite well to give you a chance to dodge and/or get to a safe spot. It makes the game even more fun to play.

A guilty pleasure of mine is that if there are cheats in the game, I like to experiment with them. The cheats in this game give this game such a nostalgic feel to me. But, then you have amazing things like you can play the episodes somewhat out of order. Like, how you can choose which level to play like in the 2nd episode of Nightmare Reaper. It’s really great stuff.

So, earlier I talked about that you need to learn the sound effects of each enemy. I said that for a reason, since the sound design in this game is really, really good. I’m so glad that I play PC games with a noise-cancelling headset, since I’m quite sure it saved me several times from dying. Combine that with an amazing soundtrack by the legendary Andrew Hulshult and the music and sound design gets a chef’s kiss… A ten out of ten. The soundtrack has been part of my work playlist for quite a long time, I love it. It fits the theming of the game like a glove.

There is a lot of attention to detail in this game, like how you have different death screens in this game tell you how you died and giving you quick and easy access to either reload the level, reload a save… The polish in this game makes it quite tricky to find negatives in this game. Yet, there are a few things I really didn’t like.

First of all, this is something I think can be fixed with a patch, but the alt+tab out of the game is extremely glitchy. I had to start and quit the game several times since it had quite a hard time remembering my screen size. It also wasn’t always active, and it switched between focus and not focused mode quite often.

The second thing, could also be fixed with a patch, but the counter in the codex isn’t always correct. Especially with the episodes. For some reason, it’s stuck at 8 for me, while it has double the pages.

But the 3rd thing is something I really disliked. The lack of a map screen. There isn’t an in-game map in this game. And if there is one, I haven’t been able to find it. While this game has great level design, and it flows quite nice, I sometimes missed in-game map to find secrets more easily. Since, some secret locations are so silly as underneath a stair.

Something I feel honestly somewhat mixed about are the power ups. There are so rare and far between, I honestly didn’t remember that this game had power-ups before I clicked open the codex for this article. While it came flooding back then, I think that there could have been much more use of these. Maybe if there is ever a multiplayer or death match or even a sort of zombie style mini-game, I think they can shine.

As you can see, this game is an excellent retro throwback shooter with a lot of polish. The fact that even after 3 years, this game gets frequent updates to polish up bugs and the game, I can’t really fault it for a lot besides not having a sort of in-game map. I really enjoyed myself with this game and I highly recommend it to everybody who enjoys playing shooters like Dusk, Nightmare Reaper, Blood, Bioshock, DooM… It’s really good. Be aware, it isn’t the easiest game you will play, but it’s a fair game, and it has that: “just one more try” attitude written all over it.

I’m really curious to see what the new DLC will bring since it will have new levels, new music and new weapons. Then, I shall wake up the champion once more to fight amid the evil and conquer it. But until then, I think I’ll end of the article here. I want to thank you so much for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Android Games – Let’s start playing on my phone again.

It has been quite some time since I wrote an article with short reviews of Android games, has it not? Lately, I have been focussing on the bigger games and I haven’t given the smaller games some time to shine on my blog. Also, when I was talking about a smaller game, I wrote a longer article on it instead of a short review. But, since I’m currently working on bigger articles and I didn’t want to skip this week, I decided I wanted to bring this series back and start talking about a few smaller games I have been playing on my phone lately. So, let’s start talking about smaller Android games and let’s take a quick look if they are worth your time/money. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the games and/or the content of this article.

ProgressBar95

Steam versionAndroid version

For those who don’t know, I’m 28 years old, and I also have a day job. This day job is being an IT admin in a big art secondary school (high school for some) here in Belgium. My work days are filled with solving problems that teachers and students have, improving our IT infrastructure, developing our website… Apart from that, I’m also a big fan of old tech and I love messing around with old computers and technology.

So, when I came across ProgressBar95 on the app store, I downloaded the game right away. And I fell in love with it right away. The game keeps true to its tagline that this game is a “hypercasual UI game”. The main idea of this game is that you are a progress bar that needs to catch dropping squares to make the progress bar progress. Blue and light blue are good ones, orange are errors but still help you in progress. Pink detracts from your progress bar, so you can get rid of orange squares if you want.

Depending on how well you do, the amount of points you get to unlock various upgrades to your computer. The higher your level, the more difficult this game becomes and the more points you can earn. This game also works with lives, but if you run out of lives, you don’t have to wait a certain amount of time for them to recharge and try the game again.

So, the interface of this game is top-notch. It nails the ascetic of being a computer amazingly. For example, to toggle sound on or off, you can press the sound icon in the bottom right of the computer. If you click the “EN” of the language toolbar, you can switch languages. It also has a colorblind mode, cloud saving, multiple game modes and one of the best ways to handle microtransactions I have seen.

The different gameplay modes I have played so far is a sort infinite runner Wolfenstein game and a “dodge the red numbers and get to the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet”-game. They add so much variety to the game and I love going between them if I’m bored with one game mode.

The biggest recommendation I would give to you is that you buy the extremely cheap “no-ads” package. Overall, the ads aren’t annoying but the game improves so much without forced ads. Now, if you look at the whole shop, you might think that this game is a “pay-to-win” or a money sink. But, no. You can pay to unlock all other levels but 99% of the stuff in the store can be earned easily in-game by winning levels or doing side quests.

It’s clear that this game has a lot of love put into it and I have a hard time finding anything negative about this game. Apart from this game being extremely niche and the game being a little boring for extend playthroughs… But yeah, I honestly would recommend this game to all my other retro gamers or people who are into computer science. It’s an amazing and refreshing experience.

Score: 5/5.

Word Lanes

Android store

So, when I’m in a waiting room or have some time to kill, I love playing small games. Especially when they are puzzle games like word searches or connect the dots to give two examples.

In Word Lanes, you are presented with a grid of letters, and you have to find all the words that fit the clues at the top. Each letter can only be used once and the letters have to connect horizontally or vertically to be used in a word.

This game is rather relaxing, and it’s a great way for me to unwind. I also love how the game is fully translated into my native language. The only complaint I have about that is the fact that as a Belgian person, I always have to struggle when the hint is talking about something from the Netherlands. But, I always report them with a handy report feature after you solved a clue. With this report feature you can report typo’s, wrong clues and things like that.

I’m also on the fence about the microtransactions. You earn coins to use the hint features after beating a level, but I feel I always don’t have enough. Thankfully, you have these daily rewards and saving them up is easy then. Honestly, I just think that the prices of the power-ups are a tad bit too high.

But hey, that’s a minor complaint. Since this game has so much enjoyment to offer and the ads aren’t THAT intrusive and only play between levels. Also, quite frequently, I have an option where the ads are disabled for one day. This is amazing and actually makes me consider buying the “no ads” package since I got a free trial.

Score: 4/5

Reigns

Android store

Way back in 2017, I wrote an article about Questr. A game that has some “Tinder” style gameplay while being a questing game. Now, that game was more about adventuring while you created your party with a sort of Tinder app. In this game, the main feature of Tinder of swiping left to reject or right to approve, is set into a “choose your own adventure” game.

Reigns is published by DeveloperDigital and is so close to be amazing, it’s painful. The gameplay is quite addictive, and I love taking decisions as an immortal king on how my kingdom should progress. The atmosphere, sound effects, music and visual design is amazing. It really pulls you into the game and I love playing the game but…

It’s way too easy to take a decision. It’s too sensitive. I had several moments where I was choosing between two options and just because I hit the edge of one side a bit too much, the game decided for me. And not only that, my phone doesn’t have physical buttons anymore and quite often, I had the game deciding for me just because I swiped down to see the time or see my latest notification.

There is also no “message log”. So, when you put the game down for a moment, you can’t see the history of what happened. And if I want to change the options during gameplay, though luck. The menu only appears when see the progress between kings.

This game has a lot of amazing elements like having to balance your four powers and the various twists and turns certain decisions and pathways can take, but it has various rough edges, I fell so mixed about this game. Maybe the PC version of the game is better, but I feel like this game works best as a mobile game. But, I feel like the mobile version just got a few rough edges. For example, I had to look up a way to reset your progress in the game. It turns out you have to hold two fingers on to have the reset screen to show up.

Yet, I advise people who enjoy adventure games to give this game a go. But be warned, the mobile version has some rough edges. But, for the low asking price of this game and the amount of content in this game, I can say for a fact there is a LOT worse out there. And I’m also so glad that this amazing concept got a few sequels as well… So, I know what to play next on my phone.

Score: 3.5/5

Wrapping up

I’m so glad that I gave this format another go and revived it. It allowed me to talk about three Android games I wanted to showcase on my blog, but I didn’t have the time for or wasn’t able to write a good enough “long” article about. I think I’ll revisit this format more often in the future and maybe also use it when I play small games on Steam, Switch or other platforms.

Then again, with my busy lifestyle and the backlog of games I still want to cover, I can’t promise how frequent I’ll write articles like these. I also challenged myself to be brief and short in this article and I had the urge to keep writing about these three games. So, if you want a more in-depth article about one of these games, let me know in the comments.

So, 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 a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!