Game Quicky: Superliminal (Switch) ~ Objects are differently shaped than they appear.

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

I remember seeing a game floating around on the internet many years ago. I even bookmarked the page I saw it on, since I wanted to keep myself up-to-date on future updates. It looked extremely cool and had a lot of potential to have amazing puzzles and mind binding twists. But that was in 2014-2015 if I remember correctly. Then, I honestly forgot about the game, and it fell off my radar. Not too long ago, I was cleaning out my overload of bookmarks and I suddenly found that game again. That reminded me about the game and when I suddenly saw it on my Nintendo Switch eShop that evening, I knew that I had to buy it right away. So, the game released a year ago, and I totally forgot about it. Oh well, that’s no big deal. Since, now, I have a lot of time to find out if my expectations were correct or if I shouldn’t have started playing this game. Now, while I have beaten the game now, I’m going to review this game in my game quicky style of articles since it’s rather short. But more on that later, let’s find out if this game is good or not, while I invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts and/or opinions in the comment section down below.

Objects are better shaped than they appear.

In this game, you are taken on a trip to the Pierce Institute to help test a new technology. This new technology is to help people with therapy using dreams. In these dreams, you can manipulate objects in some very strange ways. But, since this is a video game, something goes wrong. Instead of waking up, you get stuck inside the dream world due to Emergency Exit Protocol failing for whatever reason. So, it’s up to you to figure out why and to leave the dreamworld.

Now, I wish I could say more, but it would spoil the amazing story and strong message that this game has. This game is, give or take, 3 hours long if you only want to beat it and not 100% complete it. The story telling and voice acting in this game is so well crafted. The game spoke to me on a personal level several times. The game is also filled with some amazing life advice, and I’m so glad I played through it.

The main mechanic in this game is that perspective matters. A lot. You can enlarge or shrink certain objects in this game, so you can reach higher ledges or jump over huge gaps. The best way I can explain it, is if you go away from objects, they appear to “shrink” and when you get closer, they appear to “enlarge”. Now, image that when the “shrinking” or “enlarging” is happening, the object actually takes those dimensions. So, suddenly the cheese wheel can become a giant ramp for you to walk on. If you don’t really understand what I’m trying to explain here, take a look at these gifs, I think they might explain it way better.

I’m not going to show more or explain more of the mechanics since, it would ruin the surprises and the unique and amazingly crafted puzzles that this game has. This game can become quite tricky, but remember, it’s all a matter of having the right perspective and understanding the space you are in. Each section introduces its own unique spin or mechanic on the perspective puzzle theme, and it’s just great. I had so much fun trying to figure them all out.

Something that surprised me is that with the various elements that this game has and with the unique shrink/enlarge mechanics, it’s so well optimized. I didn’t experience any slowdowns nor did I experience any graphical glitches. Now, this is when you play the game normally. And why am I saying this? Well, it’s because the game actually encourages you to speedrun it once or twice. The Steam achievements of this game are ported over to the Nintendo Switch version. And I think I might give it a go myself one day. The controls of this game are solid enough and I think they are responsive enough for me to speedrun this game. I learned them extremely quickly and mastered them fast as well.

It would be an amazing way to dive right back into this amazing adventure and to go through the well detailed levels again. Visually, this game is stunning. While I think that the game has some moments that might trigger players that aren’t too good with flashing lights, I was amazed with the detail and visual presentation that this game has. The game also has a lot of triggers, so you don’t softlock yourself. For example, if you shrink the exit door and throw it in a trash can, the exit door spits it right back out. One animation detail I loved is seeing all the different jokes the developer made with the loading screens. You’ll have to see it to understand what I mean, but they were a nice way to do something unique with a loading screen instead of having a boring static or short moving image…

Apart from the objects you can interact with, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. But, the animations it does have pulled you into the game so much more. Including with the enjoyable sound design. It has been at least a month since I have beaten this game since I’m writing this article and I can still remember the sound effects, how the voice acting sound and how the music sounds.

Speaking about the music, most of the soundtrack of this game is extremely relaxing and sounds extremely dreamy. The great use of the piano and, which is the center instrument in this soundtrack, and it’s just lovely. It’s that lovely, I actually bought the game again on Steam since it includes the soundtrack and some official Lo-Fi remixes as DLC.

Objects are worse shaped than they appear.

So far, I’m talking quite positively about this game. While I enjoy this game an awful lot and I even dare to say that it wouldn’t surprise me that I put it on my top 10 games of 2021 list, I do have several things that I disliked about this game and that made the experience less enjoyable.

While I barely experienced any bugs, I did fall three times through the map in similar ways. Once, I was pushed out of the map when I made a way too big object fall on me. Another time I fell through the map when getting on the roof of a building and trying to get onto the wall (which wasn’t the solution, by the way) and I don’t remember what triggered the 3rd time. Thankfully, the game autosave quite often, so I didn’t lose too much progress. But, it was a bit annoying that there is no death plane underneath the maps that automatically reset you to the latest checkpoint. So, thankfully, you have the “reset” option in the game.

Something I feel extremely mixed about is the game’s length. This game is so short but the mechanics it has, have so much potential, it’s a shame. I really think that this game should have a sequel where even trickier puzzles are introduced. On the other hand, due to the short length, the story has barely any bloat or unneeded sections and flows extremely nicely. Let’s just say that I’m quite jealous of the Steam workshop features that the PC version has. While it’s amazing that I can take this game on the go and show it off to other people, I’m also glad I bought the PC version to not only have the DLC but play more of this game.

Now, while I personally had a ton of fun with this game… When I really look at the game and take a step back… In terms of gameplay, this game could have been so much stronger. I honestly have to agree with what other critics are saying about this game to a certain degree. That some mechanics are seriously underused. Not to say that the puzzles in this game are bad, far from it. I think the biggest issue is that the games’ hooks are so good that the short length to conserve the story flow actually hurt it somewhat. I do heavily disagree with the “lackluster” story. But that’s maybe because it spoke to me on a personal level.

But, yeah, the underused mechanics are such a shame. Yet! Don’t care because it’s over, be happy that it happened. And maybe play some custom-made workshop levels via the Steam version. Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel or DLC content to expand on the universe and lore of this game.

Objects’ true sizes

So, in conclusion. What do I think of the Switch version of this game? Is it worth your time, or should you buy another version or totally skip this game? Personally, I would highly recommend this game. But, do play it in one sitting. I personally think that the message that the story has it that much stronger when you get it all in one go.

The big novelty of the Switch version is that you can easily take it on the go. Of course, with the right laptop you can also take this game on the go, but the Switch is more convenient. But know that this game’s short length might annoy you, since like I explained earlier, the hooks of the game are that good. If you want to get the most out of this game, I think that the PC version might be the better option here, since it looks like it’s more actively developed, and it has the Steam Workshop with custom content!

Overall, this game does do a lot right. It has a strong story, fun and unique mechanics, amazing atmosphere, great visual presentation but due to some minor bugs and especially the short length, this game might be a difficult sell for some people. But if anything sounded interesting from what I have said in this article, please give this game a go. I really meant in what I said earlier. I wouldn’t surprise me if this game turns up in my top 10 games of 2021 list.

If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend going as blind as possible in this game. Reading too much about this game will ruin various surprises and twists this game takes. It’s like the Stanley Parable. A great short game that leaves so much impact on me as a player, and maybe it does with you too. And if it doesn’t have the same strong impact on you, you might have played a unique puzzle game that challenge your perception abilities and skills. Since, I think this game found the right perception.

What that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and 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: 90/100

Review: World’s End Club (Switch) ~ Child-friendly Horror?

Official siteNintendo.com micrositeWikipedia page

One of my favorite game developers is Kotaro Uchikoshi and when he and his team are working on a new game, my hype levels rise up. I loved his Zero Escape trilogy and his new series AI: The Somnium Files was amazing, and I can’t wait to play the sequel next year! Anyways, I was quite bummed when World’s End Club released as an Apple Aracade exclusive. Since I’m not an Apple user, I was unable to play the game and I didn’t want to buy an Apple product for just one game. Thankfully, the game released late May of this year on the Nintendo Switch. I have already finished this game for a few weeks now, but I wanted to let the game sink a bit before I wanted to review it since I felt that otherwise I wouldn’t be able to be critical enough. Now, is this game worth your time if you enjoy Kotaro Uchikoshi’s work or should we skip this one and wait for the sequel to AI: The Somnium Files? Well, let’s find out together in this review. . With that said, 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 the article.

Child-friendly horror?

In this game, you take control over Reycho and his friends from the Go-Getters Club. On their school trip, they are waiting to a strange show about a murder game. In this murder game, you have to do preform a certain task to win. But, how do you know your task? Well, for that, you have a look at another person’s bracelet. Only one person can win, and death is on the menu when you fail this task.

Now, why am I explaining this TV-show? Well, because it doesn’t take long before the Go-Getters Club plays their own task game. Of course, things go horribly wrong since the tasks are interconnected and mayhem ensues. During this game, you discover that this game doesn’t really have “wrong ends” but rather game overs. These game overs aren’t that punishing, and you can restart quite closely from where you failed.

Now, after the task game took place, the Go-Getters Club escape and discover that very strange things are happening all over Japan. They quickly form a plan to get back to Tokyo, so they can try and piece together what happened during their task game, and maybe save the world in the process. All the while, strange things happen and people start developing strange and unique powers.

Most of this game is voice acted, and I think that the voice acting in this game is one of the strongest points of the game. It fits the atmosphere extremely well, and the additional emotional accents that the voice actors placed in their performance made me connect with the characters even more. Surprisingly, the writing is rather light-hearted all the while it’s dealing with various horror subjects.

If I have to judge this game on the story alone, I would have to say that it’s a 7/10 story. I think I mainly expected a darker storyline after watching the trailer, and while I didn’t get that in this game… The more light-hearted writing of the story and the structure, well it just worked nicely. I think, that if you go into this game with the right mindset that you are going to experience a story that’s more fit for a Saturday morning/afternoon cartoon than a horror game. So, yes.

While researching for this review, I wasn’t surprised to see that various other critics were ripping this game apart. While I think that some critics judged this game a bit too harshly, I have to agree that this game isn’t the best it could be. I think the story could have worked better if there was a bit more character development and that the ending wasn’t twist after twist/surprise after surprise. The pacing of the end was a bit TOO much.

Jumping over different paths

Since I want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, I think I’ll keep the story analysis for another article. In summary, the story is good but flawed. It could have been so much more, but it tried things that made the story float between a child-friendly Saturday afternoon cartoon and a Zero Escape-style game. And it’s neither one.

Let’s move on to gameplay. This game is quite linear. In this game, you have to platform your way through various obstacles and go to the end of the level.

These levels are quite varied due to the different powers that the members of the Go-Getter Club have. This game is going to test your reflexes and understanding of each and every member’s abilities. During the levels, you get to know the in and outs of the abilities of each character so that at the ending of the game, you can be tested if you truly understand the abilities and finish the final challenge the game throws at you.

During these levels, you can also earn cards for 100% completion. Some of these cards are extremely trivial to get, but others are quite tricky and require you to backtrack a bit sometimes. Apart from adding some additional lore, I haven’t found another use for these cards then just being a collectible. And without really trying, I got 27/30 cards when beating the game. And if only I was able to quickly see in which levels I have missed a card.

Overall, these levels are quite good and enjoyable to play, but I feel that the game is a tad bit too easy. I rarely felt challenged, and I felt that I was breezing through the game without too many issues. And I even played the game on Normal mode so, I think, “I could play the easy mode without even trying”. Together with the controls, I didn’t have a lot of problems playing through this game. I did have to get used to the some things.

For example, the activation of the powers and actually using them has a bit of a delay… Which I didn’t always calculate in during battles or platforming sections. Another example is that seeing the death animation and the game over screen can’t be skipped… So, getting back into the action take a while.

But the biggest mistake that this game makes in terms of gameplay in the platforming is the lack of depth. You have this whole group of friends who can use various powers, but each level or section only focuses on one character. And if another character is using his or her power, it’s controlled by a CPU. I wish that the game did more than just scratch the surface on what’s possible.

In typical fashion for these games, the path splits at various places in the story. Surprisingly, you can only play the other paths when you have seen the normal (false) ending. So, when you decide, make it count since you won’t be able to go back.

The Journey in more ways than one.

The Go-Getters Club goes on a long journey back home, and during the game we visit various locations. Visually, this game looks quite well. While I felt that very occasionally, the 3D models and the 2D backgrounds didn’t match too well… Overall, the visual presentation is amazing.

I really liked the visual presentation of all the characters and the various locations we travelled through. At certain moments, I even felt that it was a real location. Although, I will for always wonder how this whole group is going to sleep in that small tent.

In terms of animations, I think this game is close to perfection. I didn’t have any moments that I felt that the animation could have been improved. Maybe a bit more clear loading screen? But, that’s a minor complaint. All in all, the effects and the visual presentation in this game gets two pats on the chest and a thumbs up from me.

In terms of the soundtrack, this game has a lot of amazing tracks. I would have to say that I love 99% of the soundtrack. There are a few tracks that I felt that really didn’t hit their mark or felt a bit annoying in terms of melody, but these moments are so few, I didn’t mind at all.

As usual, I was listening to the soundtrack while writing this article, and I was surprised to learn that the iOS version and the Switch version have unique tracks. And they are amazing. Yet, the sound mixing isn’t the best in some places. There were several stages where I had a hard time hearing the additional atmospheric sound effects due to the music being too loud. Thankfully, you can adjust that in the options.

It’s a shame, since the sound effects really add to the atmosphere of this game and make it that more enjoyable. But, the game recently updated, and I feel that it has improved a little. And that brings me to the UI. In terms of the UI, this game is almost perfect. The only thing I don’t like about the UI is that it’s a bit too tricky to get back to the map menu when playing a stage. You have to go around to the main menu first.

Another extremely minor gripe I have with the UI is that when you talked to everybody during the camping sights, I still get a notification box asking me that I’m sure that I want to skip talking to everybody. Maybe the wording there isn’t the best, but it confused me the first few times. I have played this game with the English (USA) translation, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this game is playable in VARIOUS different languages like Dutch, French, Spanish, German…

Overall, this game runs at a steady framerate. Very rarely, I felt that this game lagged a bit. These moments nearly always happened during boss fights with big attacks that almost covered the whole screen. Speaking of which, sometimes I felt that the hitboxes were a bit janky. I had it in my notes to talk about it, but I struck it through since, after some testing, it’s a very occasional problem that maybe the recent patch solved. I didn’t have the time to test it again for this review.

Now, before I either ramble too much or go into spoiler territory, I think it’s high time that I write the conclusion of this article. I covered most of what I wanted to say, so, let’s wrap this one up.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Amazing soundtrack

+ Nice visuals

+ Charming story

+ …

The bad:

– Lacking depth in terms of gameplay. All the while, it’s an addictive game to play.

– While the story is charming, it could have been so much better.

– Unneeded collectables.

Final thoughts:

Reviewing this game was extremely tricky. There are some many things I liked, but there are various things where this game falls flat on its face. I totally understand the mixed reception this game is getting, since it’s a game that isn’t going to click with everyone.

Personally, I really enjoyed the game, but I always had a nagging feeling that this game could have been so much more. I think this game could have benefitted from a more tense story and more difficult puzzles where you could switch between characters.

Would I recommend this game? Well, I do. I do recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure games. I hesitate to recommend this to people who love platformers, since the platforming in this game isn’t “strong enough” when you compare it to games like A Hat In Time or Mario. I really feel that this game set a nice baseline of what’s possible and can be enjoyable for a potential sequel, spin-off or future game set in the same universe… Or a game with similar mechanics.

Scoring this game will be even trickier. Since if I score it high, it might give off the wrong impression that this game is flawless while it has obvious flaws. And scoring it too low, might scare players away, while I really think this game is worthy of being played.

So, I highly recommend that you give the demo a shot and if you like and enjoy what you see… Go ahead and play the full game. If you do have second thoughts, I’m glad you gave the game a shot, but I think this game might not be for you.

As a I said before, I enjoyed my time with this game, and I’m so glad I have seen it through to the end since the pay-off is truly worth it. And yes, the Go-Getter Club will never fall apart like how this game never falls apart, although it has flaws. Once this game hooks you in, you’ll go on an amazing journey through Japan… Sort of. Kind of Japan.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. 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 a future article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 75/100

Review: Pokémon Pinball Mini (Pokémon Mini)

By Merman (@merman1974)

Console: Pokémon mini

Developer: Jupiter

Publisher: Nintendo

Release dates: Japan – December 14th 2001, North America – November 16th 2001, PAL – Europe March 15th 2002 and Australia October 11th 2001

The Pokémon mini console was an unusual move from Nintendo. Going back to an LCD screen seemed strange in 2001, but the success of Game Freaks’ franchise led to a huge number of licensed products. These included a Tamagotchi style virtual pet and an electronic Pokédex.

Pokemon_mini_logo – The Pokémon mini logo

There were three varieties of Pokémon mini, matching the colour of its shell with three Pokémon from the later generations – these colours were: Wooper Blue, Chikorita Green, and Smoochum Purple. The hardware is particularly intriguing, as the smallest Nintendo console with interchangeable cartridges. The monochrome screen has a resolution of just 96×64 pixels, and it is powered by a 4MHz 8-bit CPU from Seiko. Squeezed into the case are an internal real-time clock, an infrared port for multiplayer gaming, a reed switch that detects when the player shakes the console, and a motor for rumble/force feedback. Memory includes 4K of RAM and the 4K BIOS, while each cartridge holds 512 kibibytes (just over half a megabyte). The console also has six save slots, which are shared between games. Power comes from a single AAA battery that can last up to 60 hours of gameplay. Officially the word mini was always shown in lower case, although many sources use that interchangeably with Mini.

  Pokémon_mini_Chikorita_GreenChikorita Green

 

 

Smoochum Purple Pokémon_mini_Smoochum_Purple

 

Pokémon_mini_Wooper_BlueWooper Blue

 

 

 

Internationally there were four titles available at launch. Pokémon Party mini is a mixture of mini-games, Pokémon Puzzle mini requires you to assemble pictures of Pokémon and Pokémon Zany Cards has four card games played with Pokémon cards. We are here to talk about the fourth launch game, Pokémon Pinball mini, but it is worth discussing how the poor sales of the initial games meant no further titles were sold in North America. Pokémon Tetris saw a release in Japan and Europe, but the last five official titles – Pokémon Puzzle Collection vol. 2, Pokémon Race mini, Pichu Bros. mini, Togepi’s Great Adventure and Pokémon Breeder mini – were only sold in Japan. Developers Jupiter were responsible for six of the ten released mini games, including Pinball mini – following on from their work on the original Pokémon Pinball game for Game Boy Color.

Pinball_mini_EN_boxart – The English box art for Pokémon Pinball mini

Pinball_mini_JP_boxart – The Japanese box art for Pokémon Pinball mini

Emulated versions of some Mini games appeared in the later GameCube title Pokémon Channel, and that allowed the console to be reverse engineered by hackers. Pikachu has to find the Pokémon mini under the bed and extra games are then purchased from the Shop ‘n Squirtle. It initially comes with a special bonus mini game known as Snorlax’s Lunch Time. Pokémon Pinball Petit was included in Pokémon Channel, with just ten Quest Mode levels from the original game and no way to save high scores. An emulator and homebrew titles are now available online for those who are unable to track down the elusive mini hardware. There was even a demo (SHizZLE, by Team Pokéme) entered into the Breakpoint “wild” demo competition in 2005. Fans have since created English translations of all the Japanese exclusive titles, making them playable in an emulator or via the Ditto mini flash cartridge (containing Flash memory, and thus allowing homebrew or translated cartridge files to be run on the original hardware itself).

Pokemon_Channel_US_boxart

US box artwork for Pokémon Channel (GameCube)

snorlaxs_lunch_time – Feed Snorlax to keep him awake in this Pokémon Channel mini-game.

So how does the Pinball mini game work? The game is split into three modes. Quest Mode has 70 levels that must be completed in order, Time Attack challenges you to complete one of ten selectable levels as fast as possible, and Score Attack has ten different levels to rack up as many points as possible. As with Time Attack, the player is free to play any of the ten Score Attack levels.

ppmini_title – The title screen initially just shows Diglett hitting the Pokéball.

ppmini_diglett_scoreattack – Diglett taking on a Score Attack level.

In each level, the player hits the Pokéball around with a Pokémon replacing the flipper usually found at the bottom of the table. The player starts off with Digglet, whose head pops up to hit the ball when A is pressed. Time it right and you get a faster-moving Power Shot. As you move through Quest Mode, there are three types of level. Fill Holes requires you to fill all the holes with Pokéballs as quickly as possible. These levels have a time limit, and this type of gameplay is the core of the ten Time Attack levels. High Score levels in Quest and Score Attack award one point for hitting the ball into a hole, and three points for a power shot. In Quest Mode these levels have a minimum score to complete them – also against the time limit. As well as holes, there are other features on the tables. Blocks can be broken by three hits (or one power shot), but hard blocks cannot be broken. Water will end the game, while the gravity changer (a black arrow) makes gravity act in that direction. Bumpers make the ball rebound, but the Out Hole will grab the ball and take time to release it. Ditto stops the ball bouncing and drops it slowly, while Pichu throws the ball in the direction it is facing (with the same strength it was hit).

ppmini_ditto – Ditto will affect the ball when hit.

ppmini_gravity – Hitting the Gravity arrow will make gravity start acting to the left.

ppmini_outhole – The Out Hole in the middle will hold onto the ball for a while.

ppmini_pichu – Naughty Pichu throws the ball around.

There are four Capture Levels in Quest Mode, allowing the player to unlock a different Pokémon. The Pokémon moves back and forth across the screen, starting with 3HP. Hitting the creature with the ball removes 1HP, while a power shot removes 3HP. Once the Pokémon is reduced to 0HP it faints, and needs one more hit with the ball to capture it. The player must then flip the Pokeball into the hole to complete the level, with its weight being heavier (making it slower to move) with the captured creature inside. If the player waits too long to hit a fainted creature, it revives with 1HP and must be hit again.

ppmini_pikachu – The player has unlocked Pikachu, who is a little unpredictable.

When a new Pokémon is unlocked, it can be used to replay any level – except its own capture level. Pikachu (#025) is unlocked by completing level 10, but the ball flies in a random direction when he hits it. Clefairy (#035) is the prize for passing level 20. Its psychic abilities allow you a small amount of control over the ball with the D-pad. The player must use Pikachu on level 11 and Clefairy on level 21 and is excluded from using Clefairy on some later levels. The slow-moving Wobbuffet (#202) is unlocked at level 30 but can send the ball flying further. The final Pokémon to be captured is Poliwag (#060) after level 40. Poliwag moves up faster than the others but is not as powerful (making power shots harder). One level filled with water requires the use of Poliwag, but only Diglett can be used on level 70. Completing the Quest Mode shows Poliwag and Clefairy alongside Diglett on the title screen.

ppmini_clefairy_blocks – Clefairy’s ability to influence the ball’s movement will help get rid of these Blocks.

As a pinball game the small size of the Pokémon mini screen is restrictive. But as a spin-off from the Pokémon games, it has a certain charm in the way it uses different creatures. It is a tough game to play through, thanks to the time and score limits. The cost of the console itself and the limited sales make tracking it down tough for collectors, so the recommendation would be to try the other two Pinball titles on Game Boy instead.

OVERALL: 6/10

This article is part of a big collaboration where various writers take a look at the Pokémon series in a retrospective way. Feel free to read more articles like these by visiting the hub article.

Review: Dusk (PC – Steam) ~ Spinning Guns

headerSteam store page

I think I’m unable to hide the fact that I love playing retro-style shooters. I love the fact that a lot of new games are coming out in the genre since I like the genre quite a lot. I’m also crossing my fingers that no overload will occur. But, in any case, I think it’s high time to introduce the game I’m going to take a look at today. It’s name is Dusk, developed by New Blood Interactive. And let me tell you, I have set the bar quite high for since game since the producer of this game was the director of the Rise of the Traid (2013) reboot. Well, let’s get into the town of Dusk at dusk to shoot some monsters. But before we do that, I want to invite you to write a comment with your thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Editorial note: this review has been written after the Dusk Halloween 2020 update. 

Spinning guns

DUSK-GameplayMost of the story of this game is told through the environment. Yet, some details are told the DLC comic. Let me give you the gist of it. This game takes place in the fictional rural town Dusk, Pennsylvania. A huge network of ruins are discovered underneath the town. Those who were researching these tunnels got possessed and it’s up to you, DuskDude, to save the town from destruction. Yet, you are a treasure hunter and you want the riches that are rumored to be hidden in the town.

The influence of the original Doom is quite clear. In terms of story, this game takes the Doom story/setting and puts an Lovecraftian spin on it. I could talk more in-depth on the story but I want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible. The only thing I’ll say is that the story is an amazing homage to several famous horror movies and amazing shooters.

Now, let me tell you. If you expect a deep story with a lot of lore… I think you might have to look elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, the story and setting is extremely well done but this game focuses more on the gameplay and creating unique scenario’s then on telling a deep story.

Something that’s quite interesting to note is that there is some voice acting in this game. Something that surprised me is that the voice actor for this game is the legendary Andrew Hulshult and he is also the composer for this game. I heard his work before in Nightmare Reaper and now I have the pleasure to hear more work of his. But more about the soundtrack later. The voice acting that Andrew did in this game is amazing. You can feel that he leaned into the role and made the characters come alive.

While the story doesn’t have a lot of depth, the voice acting and the pacing the story was able to draw me in. Something that this story does quite well is that giving you the smallest amount of details that are enough to let your mind wonder and fill in the details and the rest of the story yourself.

Anyways, I have been rambling a lot about the story for now. I think it’s high time to talk about the gameplay. Is this game fun to play with a DuskDude that doesn’t have to reload his guns and spins them when you reload them.

The running slide

950313-dusk-windows-screenshot-fighting-an-enemy-in-the-fields-earlyYour goal in this game is to get to the ending of the level without dying. In order to do that, you have several weapons at your disposal. You start off with the sickles, these are your melee weapon if you are out of ammo. In my playthrough, I rarely used these. I found that they weren’t effective enough to conquer the various amount of enemies in this game.

Before I continue to talk about the weapons, I want to mention the cigar. This is an item that’s in your inventory at all time and you can use it to slowly recover health. I discovered that fact through researching this game. So, rest assured, this game can be beaten without the use of the cigar. To be honest, it’s annoying to use since it’s slow and has a cool down, which is a good thing mind you. Image having a health pack to quickly heal you, on you at all times. That would break the difficulty curve so fast.

Anyways, the weapon selection in this game has your standard pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, hunting rifle and rocket launcher guns. There are two types of shotguns and rocket launchers. On top of that, there is also a sword and a crossbow in this game. Managing these weapons and deciding when the use them is the biggest mechanic of this game. Also, don’t forget that DuskDude can pick up items that you help you to save ammo. Also, some items may be stronger then you think. 

So, you can fight your enemies by shooting or throwing stuff at them. Earlier I talked about the fact that you can spin your weapons. Hitting your enemies with a spinning weapon does ten points of damage to them. Of course, there is also the possibility that you can let them start in fighting. But I have seen this happen quite rarely during my playthrough. But, the crystal of madness holds some secrets about that.

During your quest to find the keys that open the doors to the ending of the level, you can also find various secrets. Some of them are in plain sight and others are hidden behind fake walls. If you are secret hunting, pay close attention to the environment and don’t destroy boxes since they can be used to jump higher. And each secret is worth it, let me tell you. Some secrets saved my skin during my playthrough. 

There is one mechanic in this game I’m honestly missing in other shooter games and that’s the slide mechanic. When you are running and press the crouch button, DuskDude does a slide. This feels so gratifying to pull off and helps quite a lot during combat. 

There are also power-ups in this game that enhance the gameplay quite a lot. My two favorites are the Fast Fire Totem and the Wall Climbing power-up. The Fast Fire Totem just reduces your weapon cool down to 0. It’s ridiculous and using it on a large group of enemies felt so enjoyable to do. Also, the Wall Climbing power-up is used in excellent moments and set pieces that made it a lot of fun to use. 

In terms of gameplay, this game is a well built shooter and it controls amazingly well. I never had a moment where I felt that a death was the game’s fault. The only nitpick I had with the controls is that picking up items and moving them is sometimes a bit tricky when you are getting things from between tight spaces. 

The Steam achievements were fun to get while exploring the various landscapes in this game. Visually, this game looks right out of the early 90’s. The visual style has been nailed perfectly with blocky models and everything. Yet, surprisingly, the game is quite detailed and feels like a real dystopian landscape. 

In terms of animations, this game hits another nail on the head. I highly advise you to learn the attack animations of your enemies since they can save your life in certain spots. Some enemies are a big pain to deal with but when you learn their patterns and animations, they can be worked around. 

To top this all off, you have an amazing soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult. This soundtrack adds so much to the game, it’s amazing. While the game gives off a horror and Lovecraft vibe, you can rip and tear with the epic metal soundtrack in the background that even gets moody at certain moments. That in combination with great sound design makes it fun to hunt down your enemies, avoid their attacks and shoot them. 

So far I have been praising this game, like the additional fun I had when I messed around with the cheats in this game, but I’m sad to report that this game does drop the ball in some area’s. Let’s talk about them. 

Nostalgic loading screen

950317-dusk-windows-screenshot-many-weapons-can-be-dual-wielded-earlyLet me first start with the biggest bummer of them all. I wanted to try out the multiplayer in order to be able to write about it. Sadly enough, the multiplayer is quite deserted at times. I’m not the best in shooter games but I felt that the balance was all over the place. In the few matches I was able to play, I got spawn killed quite often. Maybe I need to give it another chance but I have a bit of a sour taste in my mouth so I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Thankfully, the single player is more then fun enough to play through and there is were the focus is at. 

I was about to complain about the lack of the weapon wheel, but this is coming in a future patch when the console versions are released. In addition to that, we are also getting custom weapons, co-op and mod support. So, these things might help in fixing some of the issues I have with the game. 

Something I didn’t like is that this game is quite short. There are 30 levels in this game and you can finish this game in give or take 10-ish hours. This game has so much potential and it’s over before you know it. I was really getting into it nearing the end and then I was fighting the final boss. Oh well, this game is somewhat replayable due to the secret hunting you can do and trying to beat your fastest time. 

You know, I don’t want to do this but this game does drop the ball in something that’s a big pet peeve of mine. This is the UI. While it works and is easy to use, there is some major polish that needs to happen to it. Let’s start with the lack of a map. I got lost several times in some levels because I was unable to bring up a map. Some of these levels are huge and without a map, you can get lost if you didn’t pay attention during a fight. 

If you use your mouse wheel to scroll in some menu’s like the save/load menu or in the language menu, the scrolling up is quite broken. Sometimes it works and other times it refuses to work. 

Speaking of the save/load system, the save and load system isn’t good. I hate the fact that the list of save files is alphabetical and not sorted by the latest save you made. I always had a hard time finding my most recent save when I wanted to continue the game. Also, when you saved the game for a second time in a level, it doesn’t ask you to overwrite your latest save… It takes the name of the latest save and starts adding lines to it. 

When selecting a save file to load, you get the level name and the time stamp of when you saved the game. I wish I was able to see how long I was in the level as well. That way I would how far I was in the level. 

Now, this game doesn’t do an autosave when you enter a new level. You have to save manually each and every time. Thankfully, you can start at the beginning of the level through the main menu quite easily. 

All of these things are such a shame. Since it puts a blemish on quite an interesting game. A game that does a lot right like an enjoyable endless mode where you have to keep being fast and efficient since there is a huge lack of health pickups. Something else this game does well is setting the atmosphere with the fake DOS-loading screen and sound effects. 

But then strange mistakes happen like your controls settings not carrying over from single player to multiplayer. Or the custom cursor not working all to well in the multiplayer menu. 

Also, there are things like when you use your double barreled shotgun and you have only one bullet left, you can’t shoot your shotgun. But here is the thing that annoys me, when you are out of ammo for all your other weapons, DuskDude switches to another gun. And guess what he doesn’t do in the situation I described earlier? But of course, switch weapons! 

Now, there are moments where DuskDude flips upside down. During swimming moments or in certain levels. And let me tell you, the sudden camera movement was quite disorienting for me sometimes. One timing during my playthrough I even had to stop playing since I got a major headache… But that might be just me… 

So, with all of this said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article. Time to wrap everything up in a nice TL;DR and give my final thoughts on the game. 

Conclusion

The good:

+ Addictive and fast gameplay.

+ The amount of homages and easter eggs are amazing.

+ The audio and visual design is excellent.

+ Andrew Hulshult’s soundtrack is a big plus.

+ …

The bad:

-Can be a bit short if you don’t go 100% it.

-The multiplayer is a bit eh, in my opinion.

-Some UI issues.

-The save/load system is somewhat broken. (The UI)

Final thoughts:

Dusk is an amazing game that takes you back to the times of the original Doom, Quake and other old school shooters. It’s an enjoyable shooter to play through and I had to a lot of fun from beginning to end. 

It’s clear that a lot of polish and love went into this game and it shows. This game is a labor of love that turned out quite well. It’s a shame that some UI issues (especially in the SAVE/LOAD system) are a blemish on an otherwise amazing game. 

I can forgive the game being rather short since you can go secret hunting or try to beat the game on a higher difficulty or beat your fastest time. Also, for the price of only 25€, you get an additional 26 page comic and the whole soundtrack by the amazing Andrew Hulshult. That dude has the shooter soundtrack creation nailed to a T. 

Would I recommend this game to fans of (retro-style) shooters? I think that’s a no-brainer YES, OF COURSE! The positives highly outweigh the negatives for this game. And with some updates on the horizon, this game might only get better and maybe some of the UI issues I mentioned in this article might be fixed in the future. Who knows? 

So, if you would excuse me… I think it’s high time I continue to shoot some of these enemies that are calling me a heretic while I wrap up this final paragraph. I want to thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

NekoJonez’s Favorite Gaming Music -SPECIAL- ~ It’s Podcast Time

It has been quite some time since I wrote about my favorite music tracks in video games. So far, I have written 24 articles in this series. Today I have a special spin-off article in this series. I was a guest on the “Untitled Game Music Podcast” by Alexander Sigsworth. Today it’s finally live and to give it some publicity since this series is amazing and I highly recommend that you all listen to it, this week’s article is simply going to be an embedded version of the podcast. Please enjoy and feel free to leave a comment here or on Alexander’s channel!

First Impression: The Great Perhaps (Switch) ~ I Dunno, Time Travel Perhaps?

H2x1_NSwitchDS_TheGreatPerhaps_image1600wDrageus pageSteam pageDevelopers websiteNintendo microsite

Today I want to talk about a game that asks a question. The question of how the world would look like after a big disaster occurred. But, more on the story later in the article. To give full disclosure, I got a review code for this game from the developers of the Switch port Drageus Games for this review. As usual, Drageus Games asked that I gave my 100% true honest opinion. So, that’s what you are going to read in this article. Now, Drageus Games didn’t publish the PC-version. That’s been handled by Daedalic Entertainment of Deponia fame. Anyways, let’s dive right into this adventure game and look at what it has to offer. Should you play or skip this game? Let’s find out. One thing before I continue, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

I dunno, time travel perhaps?

ss_80c8f6807052540764e0c21b6a70cd8f9f84b89b.1920x1080I already started to explain the story in the introduction paragraph of this article. In this game, Earth is destroyed by natural disasters. You play an astronaut that was in his spaceship during the disasters. Now, when you descent back to Earth, you find a lamp that aids you to see the past and interact with it. Together with this lamp, you set out on a journey to find your family and explore what’s left of the Earth.

While the setup of the story is completely different, the story reminded me of another game a bit. In Time Hollow, you also have an object that allows you to interact with the past and you go through a very emotional adventure. But, that’s beside the point, I just wanted to mention that game if the premise of this game interests you, there are also other games with that sort of story nature.

The writing in this game is decent. From what I have seen so far, there was nothing that stuck out as really good or really bad to me. The only thing that stuck a bit out with the mediocre voice acting. I really can’t put my finger onto why but I felt that some lines were either a bit forced or strangely delivered. Maybe it’s the writing itself or the pacing, I can’t tell why exactly but the voice acting isn’t the strongest point in this game.

All in all, this game isn’t that long. This game can take you 2-4 hours of playtime. Currently, I’m in the middle of the game. You do explore various locations from a metro station to a zoo. The thing is, this game isn’t 3D, so it’s quite linear. But, I’ll go more in-depth on this when I’m going to talk about the gameplay.

Trial and error

Screenshot_19

This game uses an auto-save system. I’m so glad that it does since this game can be quite tricky at the beginning. One of the first areas you visit is a metro station and I have to say that it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience I had.

I think that two things made my experience frustrating that can be fixed or addressed in an update. The first thing is that the icons for interaction or way too small. The size is bordering on too small when you play the game in handheld mode but when I was playing in the dock, I had to sit a bit too close to my TV for comfort to see the interaction icons.

The 2nd issue was the biggest cause of my frustration. I wasn’t able to get used to the delay of the time traveling. If you travel to the past in the metro station, you have to look out for a train. Your AI-companion does warn you when the train is approaching, but you do still have some time to switch back to the present. I always started to switch back when I visually saw the train approaching. To save yourself some frustration, don’t do that. The delay is long enough so that the train will always hit you and kill you. Keep that delay in mind.

Speaking about that delay, there is a mechanic that I would have implemented quite differently. That is the time you can stay in the past. After a while, a sound effect starts playing to let you know that your time is almost up and that you are going to switch back to the present. The issue I have with this is that the only sign you get is done with audio. Not everybody can hear the audio or is focused on audio-cues. I think it would have been greater if some sort of animation or effect started displaying when the audio starts. You could argue that the flashing of the lamp is a visual clue, I give you that. But, you do have, give or take, a second before it switches back when the final flash happened.

Now, how does this game play? It’s almost like a puzzle-platformer without the platforming. By using your lamp, you have to solve puzzles to go back to the past and the present. Compare the idea a bit with the Harp of Ages from The Legend of Zelda – Oracle of Ages.

There is some trial and error involved in this game. Because there is no real hint system in this game, you do have to try everything you can think of. Unlike the Steam version that has achievements that can help you a bit to steer you in the right direction, you are on your own in this game. You don’t even have some sort of map system or “to do” list that can help you remember what your next objective is. So, this game is a bit old school in that regard. Now, there are achievements in this game but they are less present than in the Steam version.

While it’s easy to die in the present, the respawn time is rather quick. So, if you failed to solve a puzzle, don’t worry, it doesn’t take long in order for you to give it another go. And because the game autosaves frequently, you don’t have to worry about losing too much progress.

Comic book?

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Visually, this game is pretty amazing. Everything has this hand-drawn look to it and is amazingly detailed. Sadly, there were a few moments where I felt that some details were either missed or not clear enough. For example, in the metro station, you can’t pass through a door because it’s damaged. But, the visual damage on the door is only a few scratches on the door itself. That’s like saying that a bush blocks your way and you are unable to walk around it… Isn’t that right Pokémon?

The visual presentation is like you are playing through a comic book. It’s quite clear that a lot of work and thought has been put into the visuals and the backgrounds of this game. I have to compliment the artists on their work since they did an amazing job.

The animations on the other hand aren’t bad but aren’t good either. The jump animation could have been better for example. The character is a bit too static but strangely, a part of the suit does move.

The audiovisual presentation of this game is decent. The music fits the theming and atmosphere of the game like a glove. Now, there isn’t an option to adjust the volume of the music and/or sound effects in the menu. You can only change the master volume in the options.

When digging around in the options menu, I found out that the voice acting can also be in Russian. Apart from that, you can also choose to change the language of the subtitles and the menu system. I find it very strange that you can also change the language of only the menu system honestly. I think that it would have made more sense to merge the subtitle and the menu language option.

So, the UI of this game. Earlier I talked about the too-small interaction icons. The rest of the UI is good apart from some minor things I would have changed. One thing is that I think that the word “Areas” or “Sections” would have fitted better in the main menu instead of “Levels”.

And the second thing I would have changed is that I think that it would have been great that next to “Continue” the name of the area you were in appeared. But this brings me to another point. Why does this game have only one save slot? I mean, this genre screams to have multiple save slots. Especially when you share your Switch! Image that your sibling finished the game and you had to find the point where you were at.

Something that I personally find a huge negative in this game is the lack of an help section. Just image that you take a break from playing this game and you want to pick it back up. That means that you have to relearn all the different mechanics and controls of this game from scrath. That’s a pain in my opinion. It’s just a small feature that can save a lot of people headaches.

Now, I haven’t spoken about the controls. They are quite resposive and I didn’t had a lot of problems with them. Apart from the delay of switching back and forth between the past and the present. But, is this a problem with the controls or the gameplay? You can give arguments for both options.

When I’m reading back this article, you might think that this game isn’t the best or is mediocre. Well, that isn’t 100% true. This game is quite charming and you feel that a lot of care has been put into this game. But, it’s quite rough around the edges. If you are looking for a really polished game, I have to say that you should look elsewhere. If you don’t mind a game that’s a bit rough around the edges, I think this game can be for you.

If you enjoy adventure, point-and-click and/or puzzle games, this game might be an enjoyable time waster. With some additional polish, this game can get even better and then I wouldn’t say that it’s rough around the edges anymore.

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

First Impression: GameR-Mate Stik (Hardware) ~ Take Your Ubuntu Everywhere.

FlashBayArtwork-GameR-Mate-Stik-Full

Official website

Today I want to talk about something that has been in the works for quite a while. Last year, the folks over at BlackRangerSoftware sent me an mail promoting their newest product called the GameR-Mate Stik v1.0.0. I was going to write an article about it back then, but the devs created an updated version right after I sent them my feedback. On top of that, the COVID-19 outbreak and shipping something from the USA to Europe delayed this article until now. Now, with that said, I think it’s high time to talk about this product. Know that the developer asked for my 100% honest opinion and that’s what you are going to read in this article. Now, let’s take a look at the first physical product I’m going to review on my blog. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinions on the product and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

What is GameR-Mate?

So, image this. An USB stick that you can plug into any computer that can run USB3.0 sticks and with that, you can play your games without affecting the computer itself. That’s GameR-Mate. The technical term for it is a Live-USB.

The latest version I received is running a modified version of Ubuntu 16.08. Now, what is Ubuntu? Let me tell you. So, to be able to run your computer, you need an operating system. An operating system is a sort of “translator”. It translates instructions from software to actual machine code. For example, when you make a new folder, the operating system gets that information from Windows or OSX and tells the hard drive: “Hey, make me a new folder on that location”. An operating system is much more than that, but for keeping this article simple, let’s not dive too much deeper into the inner working of computers.  

Now, the two biggest operating systems on the market are: Windows from Microsoft and OSX from Apple. Of course, you have Android from Google and iOS from Apple for smartphones. Let’s not forget ChromeOS for Chromebooks. And there is a special one as well. It’s called Linux.

Linux comes in a ton of flavors called “Distro’s”. Most of these distro’s are free to use and give you even more control of your computer than Windows and OSX. In the tech community, there are a lot of people who prefer using Linux to Windows or OSX. They enjoy the greater privacy control, ability to control every little thing about the system or just don’t want to pay for an operating system. There are many more reasons why people choose for Linux.

The userbase for Linux is rather small. According to NetMarketShare.com, the most used operating systems on the market are Windows (88,14%), Mac OSX (9,38%) and then Linux with (1,89%). Now, that’s mostly in the desktop and laptop space. Now, something quite “funny” happens when we look at the server side of things. Just take a look at datanyze.com with the comparisons between the usage of Windows Server and Ubuntu… Now, this is only just one website, but let me tell you from personal experience as an IT staff guy in a big school here in Belgium, we server techies prefer Linux distro’s for our servers in most cases over Windows server because it gives us more control over the system and is generally more lightweight so it uses less resources.

So, why am I putting so much effort into explaining Linux for this article? Especially in the section where I should be explaining what GameR-Mate actually is? Well, because Linux gives you the freedom to create very specific products without a lot of modifications. Just take a look at this list and you might be surprised on how much things run on Linux.

GameR-Mate is a special USB stick. So, you can boot to it and play your games and take it with you. The biggest limitation is that you need a “host” computer to be able to run it. So, if you don’t have a computer, you won’t be able to access your games. But that’s a limitation of each USB stick is it not?

What’s included?

Now, you can buy a GameR-Mate USB-stick right from Gamer-Mate.net. At the time of writing, the stick costs 70$ (discounted to 50$) which is give or take, 65 euro (45€ if it’s discounted). In order for you to be able to run your games, you need to have a computer that supports at least USB3.0. I have tested mine on older devices that don’t have an USB3.0 port and let me tell you, it wasn’t a fun time.

But, how do you know if your computer has USB3.0 ports? Well, in most cases these USB ports are blue. You can also double check that via the instructions in this article. So, after you placed your order, you get your GameR-Mate stick.

My stick arrived in a protective envelope that had the stick in a plastic bag stapled to a quick start guide. This quick start guide helps you to boot your computer to an USB stick instead of the actual operating system of your computer. Besides that, you get an user guide with explanation and some great information to get started using the stick. You also get a thank you letter from the CEO for buying the product. And finally you get a welcome letter as well.

I did get something additional, but that’s because I got a beta version of the product so I get some forms to fill in to give feedback on the product to create a better product. Personally, I think that they should include this with every purchase, even when the beta phase is over, you never know when it can come in handy.

The USB stick itself is made out of metal and plastic. It feels quite sturdy but you can remove the metal a bit too easily from the housing. Also, if you ever created USB sticks with your own print on them, you will recognize them right away. Maybe it’s a thing here in Belgium, but I got the same design of USB from various other places at events. I have the same model in yellow, green, blue and red. But, that’s nitpicking.

Something I missed with the USB-stick is a better way to store it. Now, I added an additional metal ring so I can attach it to a lanyard. I find that a bit more secure since during the research and testing I was doing for this article, my cat Troy knocked the USB stick underneath my desk while he was sleeping on my desk. Thanks to the lanyard, I was able to get it back from underneath my desk more easily. Now, adding a lanyard to the shipment might be too big of a cost, but adding a small metal ring to add it to your own lanyard would be lovely.

The experience

Depending on the hardware you run the stick on, the better performance you are going to get. Keep in mind that you need at least a port that can run USB3 sticks. In order to test this stick out, I tested this stick on my main machine. My main computer is running an i7-4820K, 16GB of DDR3 RAM at 666MHz and an MSI GTX 1050Ti. My motherboard is an ASROCK X79 Extreme 6. While this isn’t the strongest of systems out there, my computer is strong enough to run all the games I want to play at 30-60FPS at medium to high settings.

When you boot the stick, you can select various different modes. From what I can understand is that you can choose between loading it from the USB or load the system into RAM. There is also a recovery mode included. I had to use that once since an update failed to install and that corrupted my whole OS.

In the user guide, you get the advice to make frequent backups. If I had made a backup, I would have saved my first testing version from death. But yeah, I’m to blame since I thought I would be able to fix it since I used Linux various times during my studies and at work. But when you can even boot the OS, let alone go in recovery mode… Well, then you are quite screwed.

In a future article, I’ll take a look at the games that are included in this package. The list of pre-installed software is quite expansive. You can find the list at BlackRangerSoftware’s blog. Important footnote with this list, since this list is created during the development of the stick, it might be that some games aren’t included on the stick and/or on the list. But, I’m quite certain that the amount of games won’t change. Games that I could recommend are:

0AD, which is an open source RTS game like Age Of Empires

Alex 4, a lovely retro platformer in the style of an old Gameboy game.

B.A.L.L.Z, a platformer game where you are a ball and you need to use the bounce mechanics to your advantage.

Frogatto, this adventure platformer reminds me a lot of games like Shantae.

Sadly enough, there are some repeats. A lot of repeats actually. There are various Tetris-style, Pac-Man-style, Breakout-style… games. This gave me mixed feelings. At once hand, I love the choice I’m getting between all these various games. But at the other hand, I got the feeling that all of those games were just added to have a higher number of games to try and sell more sticks.

Is this GameR-Mate fun to use? If I have to answer that question, I’m going to have to add a disclaimer. There is going to be a learning curve if you have never worked with Linux. If you are used to Windows 10, there are a lot of things you will miss that you took for granted on your Windows machine. For example: seeing the password you are typing in, loading animations while settings are changing, double clicking a window to make it full screen, a place where all settings are combined into one place, a notification center…. It’s just not there in the Linux distro on the USB-stick. Now, do keep in mind that this can be updated and added in a future version of the stick.

But, you still have to learn a completely new operating system. While Linux has a lot of tutorials, due to the huge amount of different distro’s and differences between them, it can be quite overwhelming. So, give yourself some time and keep in mind that the system might work quite different compared to your Windows machine. Now, I do think that Apple users will have a better time adjusting to Linux since in a way, the user interface of Apple systems and Linux systems have various things in common. (Sidenote: while they have things in common, Apple OSX isn’t Linux and Linux isn’t OSX. But the flow in the OS can be similar.)

When you give this USB stick a chance, I think it might have the same effect on you then it has on me. I love to play around with unique ways to play games. I don’t mind honestly if the game is a retro or a current game. As long as I’m having fun while playing my games, it’s all that matters to me. So, I personally recommend this stick to people who love playing a ton of different games and/or people who travel a lot and aren’t able to take their main gaming rig with them. I think that the asking price is well worth it for the amount of value you are getting. Plus, you can always install more games from the various store fronts.

With that, I think I’m going to wrap up this first article on the GameR-Mate Stik. I want to thank BlackRangerSoftware for being so patient with me and also for giving me the opportunity to test out this product. 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 and I wish you a great rest of your day and take care!

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Gaming Nostalgia: Mario & Luigi – Bowser Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey (3DS) ~ It’s inside me, Mario!

Wikipedia entryNintendo Microsite

Remember the Zelda project, Final Fantasy project, and the Tomb Raider project? Well, today a new project drops all about Mario! The mad man, The Well-Red Mage found over 100 bloggers to write about the Mario series in the style that I found several bloggers for talking about the Zelda series and the Tomb Raider series. In any case, of course, I’m a part of this collaboration of fine bloggers! Now, you can find the hub article where you can find links to all the other articles here: [LINK TO ZE HUB BABY!] And in this article I’ll talk about my adventures and thoughts of Mario & Luigi’s Inside Story + Browsers Jr.’s Journey. So, let’s go with this Mario RPG!

It’s a me, a remake!

This game tells the same story as the original Nintendo DS game released in late 2009. From what I can see, most of the changes in the game are focused on the graphics. While the original game has a more 2D look to it, the remake has a more 3D look to the visuals. You can see a great comparison in the video created by aWiibo where both versions are set side by side.

On top of that, this game has an additional story mode telling a story about Bowser Jr. This mode adds 7-ish hours of playtime if I compare the times on howlongtobeat.com. But, the game almost doubled in playtime for people who want to play the game to its full completion.

There is another writer taking a look at the DS version of this game, but I’m focusing on the remake of the game. While I haven’t finished the game for this article due to time constraints, I did some research to make this article interesting in another way.

Some random facts

So, did you know that this game is one of the final games released by Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS? It wasn’t the last Nintendo published game on the 3DS however, that honor goes to another remake: Kirby’s Epic Yarn a bit later in March of 2019.

The title of this game in development was Mario & Luigi RPG 3!!!. Since it was the 3rd Mario & Luigi game. Before this game, we got Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on the Gameboy Advance and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time on the Nintendo DS. So the title makes a lot of sense since it’s the 3rd game in the series.

For some reason, Nintendo skipped over remaking Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time and remade this game. Partners in Time is the only one of the three first games that didn’t get a remake on the 3DS.

Something that I found quite strange is that there are a lot of leftover sound effects from Yoshi’s Story and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time in the rom for the original DS version. This isn’t the case in the 3DS version.

This game got two updates. The first update fixed an issue where you could soft-lock yourself with Luigi. In the second patch, a sound issue was fixed in the Music menu under records.

According to the TCRF (The Cutting Room Floor), there are various test rooms left in the final version. You can read about them in more detail on the page of this game.

After releasing this game, the developer AlphaDream filed for bankruptcy protection. Which is a shame since we might not see a Mario & Luigi RPG on the Switch. Maybe Nintendo can get the IP to another developer?

My thoughts

So, apart from those interesting facts about the development of this game; let’s give my opinion on this game. I won’t give my full opinion on this game just yet since I haven’t finished the game and I’m planning to write a review about this game in the future anyway.

Now, the tricky thing is that I had almost finished the DS version. I was close to reaching the final area. But then disaster struck. I lost my save file and I felt a bit too discouraged to restart the whole game to get to the point I was at.

It’s a darn shame since the game is quite a lot of fun to play. If you have played the two previous games, you know what to expect here in terms of gameplay. It’s an RPG where you play as Mario & Luigi, where the A button controls Mario and the B button controls Luigi. This is also the case in the battle mechanics where you have to rhythmically time your button presses to do more effective attacks.

The annoying thing is that I’m anything but rhythmic. So some battles took longer for me since I wasn’t able to do all the attacks at full damage. I did improve the more I played the game, but I rarely got consistent.

Yet, I did enjoy the game for silly and unique storytelling. In this game, something strange happens with the toads. They swell up like a balloon getting the nickname “The Blorbs”. After some investigation, all the affected toads act a strange mushroom created by the mad scientist Fawful. So, Princess Peach orders Mario & Luigi to set out and try and find a solution. But, then Bowser tries to kidnap Princess Peach. When this fails, Fawful lets Bowser eat a vacuum mushroom and this sucks Mario, Luigi and various other characters from the mushroom kingdom inside Bowser. Mario & Luigi have to help Bowser to regain his strength in order to escape and find a cure for the Blorbs.

The multiple layers of the story are something I truly love. The writing is rather humorous and lightweight. There isn’t a lot of voice acting, but the voice clips that are used help a lot to understand which emotion is in that certain part of the dialogue.

Bowser Jr.’s story takes place during the events of the main game. So, the additional story is a bit of a side story. Currently, I’m playing through it and I’m going to keep my opinions and this quite interesting side story a secret.

Now, I much prefer the visual upgrade from the remake over the original. I have looked at various screenshots and video comparisons of the original game and the remake. I think that the remake’s visuals feel more alive and pop that much more. It makes the original look more like a sort of Saturday morning cartoon from a decade ago.

Anyways, I think I’m going to end off this short look back at Mario & Luigi’s Bowser Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey. That’s a mouthful. 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 but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Wahoo! You are a Super Reader! But the adventure doesn’t stop here… There’s more of this project in another castle! This article is just one level in an entire Super Mario Multiverse, a galactic collaboration between writers around the world sharing a bit of our hearts and memories about our favorite Mario games. Visit the Center of the Multiverse to see more:

https://thewellredmage.com/2020/03/10/center-of-the-mario-multiverse/

First Impression: Soul Warrior Merope (PC) ~ Featuring The Developer

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Today I’m going to write a special article. Last year, a friend of mine created a game called “Soul Warrior Merope“. At first, he wanted to create this game for mobile platforms but due to some technical difficulties, the game has been released on PC. I promised him to write an article about the game to promote and here we are. I’m sorry mate that it took so long for me to get around to it, but better late than never. So, I think it would be quite fun to review this game interview style. Yes, interview style. So, I wrote a sort of review where I asked the developer to respond to why he created the game in a certain way and things of that nature. So, introducing Priom from HatCatGames, the developer of this game.

Before I begin, I have to give some disclosure. I have helped Priom testing a previous build of the game while he was developing the game. I only gave him some advice to improve the quality of his game. But, this was when he was still developing it for mobile platforms.

Editorial note: Some friends call me Neko, others call me Jonez. If Priom mentions Jonez, he means me.

Jonez: Before we start, feel free to introduce yourself Priom. Tell us a bit about yourself and why you started developing games. Have you created other games before Soul Warrior Merope? How long was the development process for the game?

Priom: Well, I’m Quazi Fahian Muntakim. Better known as Priom or Bear Gril if you only know me on select social media platforms. I’m currently a university student from Bangladesh and a hobbyist game dev.

As for how I got here, well, I think you bore witness to some of it, Jonez. I love video games always have. Fun fact, our family was one of the earliest to adopt a computer for consumer use in Bangladesh. So I always had a love for games. Especially Side-Scrollers and RPGs.

But I think the want to make my own game for others to enjoy. And to weave interesting stories that can only be done in this medium. I think that idea started in 2012 when one of our mutual friends introduced us to RPG MAKER. And that desire kept growing until I joined the GMTK Game Jam 2017 and felt like I wanted to make something that’s available for just about anyone to play!

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Jonez: Visually, this game looks like it was created on the NES or with a sort of pixel-art style in mind. I quite like the visual style of the while. Why did you choose for this visual style? I noticed that the castle has a lot of darker tones and the outside is more colorful. Is the art style inspired by other games or franchises?

Priom: Well again, much like you, I love retro games. Some of my fondest memories come from the GBA, which also had a lot of ports for SNES games. So of course, I wanted to follow that style. Other than that I feel like pixel-art has become an art form in itself in recent times, rather than being a product of limited hardware. So choosing this particular style was a no-brainer.

As for inspiration, I can think of 2. Team Cherry’s “Hollow Knight” and Bombservice’s “Momodora” franchise. Both of them have a cutesy yet somewhat grim art-style which I absolutely adore. Other than that, I have had people mention the castle interiors remind them of “Prince of Persia” for the DOS. I wasn’t exactly trying to replicate that but perhaps it was a subconscious decision, hmm?

Jonez: The game tells a story about a young strong lady Merope looking for two missing children. A mysterious figure called Madd has something to do with it. So, are you in Madd’s castle or lair? How involved is the story, is it extremely present or does it take a backseat while the visuals and gameplay tell most of the story?

Priom: Well, since it is at the very start of the story. I guess I could tell you. The castle belonged to Arthur, the tiny glowing spirit following you around. But he and his people have been long dead. So Madd is using Arthur’s castle as a hideout.

As for the story, I was going for a bit of a free-fall route. The idea was to make an opening with a strong yet simple premise that I can add on to later. So the story’s presence is like that too. Where there’s a lot happening at the start after that you get to experience the story at your own pace while exploring the castle.

I’d like to mention that I do want to make games with more plot later on. I’ve actually gotten into the habit of having a notepad on my person and taking notes whenever ideas pop up.

Jonez: So, you can name your own price on Itch.IO for this game. Basically, the consumer can pay anything they want. Does this decision have a special reason?

Priom: The reason was simple. As this is the first game I made public like this I wanted as many people to play it as possible! It also provides an opportunity for more people to provide feedback. And I have been receiving useful feedback. So it all works out.

Jonez: In some cases, the game is a bit rough around the edges. Like hitboxes of objects only reacting to the tip of the sword or not having a jumping animation. Game development isn’t an easy task and there are so many things to keep in mind while creating a game. What did you focus on while developing?

Priom: Well, the game was rather *experimental* is how I’d put it. If there was anything I wanted to try that could help me further later on then I took it as being worth it. Which might have resulted in some things being a bit subpar than others I’d admit. But I’d like to think even the shortcomings are valuable learning experiences. You don’t realize certain things until others point them out or you relax your mind a bit.

Jonez: Now, I have a sort of related question. Let’s say that you had all the knowledge, time and resources to change a few things in the game. Which things would you change and why would you change them?

Priom: The checkpoint system. It would’ve gone bye-bye in exchange for a more standard system. It was fine at first but it managed to create more and more restrictions as the game got more fleshed out.

As for additions, I would probably just made the castle bigger with more visual lore added. I’d add a better catalog of info and a more informative UI. Along with lots of tweaks for the melee combat from experiences I gained from Game Jams I joined later down the line.

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Jonez: The game plays like a Metroidvania, where you have to get new abilities and get stronger to progress. Was it easy to find mechanics that set your game apart like using lives for your special abilities or did you had to try a lot of ideas?

Priom: As I said. Soul Warrior Merope was born from the GMTK Game Jam 2017. Which was a 2-day jam where you have to make a game under a theme? The main theme of that jam a single mechanic with multiple functions. The other abilities kind of grew from that original idea.

Jonez: Let’s talk about the music and sound design. While there aren’t too many sound effects in the game, how did you decide which sound effects to include or not include?

Priom: I think there are 8 music tracks in total. An intro, 5 for the five major areas, the boss theme which has 3 variations based on which boss you’re fighting and a track used for a very specific ending. All of the tracks are long enough so that you’ll pass through the area before the songs loop too many times.

As for sound effects, I actually like to believe that you should have enough recognizable SFX that someone can make a guess as to what’s happening blindfolded. In that sense, I would’ve preferred to add more SFX if I had more time too. But what’s chosen is the ones that are absolutely necessary to convey what’s going on, granted as long as they don’t sound bad.

Jonez: So, you told me once that you were creating the game in YoYo Games’ GameMaker: Studio. Why did you choose that engine? Apart from that program, which tools did you use and for what? Did you run into any trouble?

Priom: Well, I think it was in 2015 or earlier when my younger brother told me that Game Maker Studio’s Standard Edition was free. I was still using RPG Maker at that time but found it rather restricting. I did not, however, have much coding knowledge since my educational curriculum at that time only involved some basic C++ and HTML. So, a programmable engine for free was a generally risk-free investment. After using it I found a YouTuber by the name of HeartBeast who has some amazing tutorials that I definitely recommend for people starting out. And well I kinda just got used to the engine and bought the pro version.

Other than that, I used Piskel & Paint.Net for the art, LMMS+Audacity for audio and my younger brother, who was responsible for some of the art such as the UI and menu icons, used Aseprite.

As for the issues we faced, as time’s going on Game Maker Studio 1.x is becoming more and more obsolete. Google’s new policy doesn’t allow 32-bit apps on the play store anymore which means the game couldn’t be put into the platform. Not to mention, it didn’t provide me with a proper description of why the Android export stopped functioning too. It’s still pretty good for PC games though.

Jonez: The game isn’t that easy, you really have to learn the various abilities of your character and explore around. How did you decide to balance the game?

Priom: Well, that was the reasoning behind letting the player explore around so many of the different areas from the get-go. The game is actually less linear than initial impressions may imply. The idea is that if you get stuck in a certain place it’s perfectly fine to explore another place and through the use of the abilities you have at that moment you might be able to take a completely different route than the intended route of the game.

Jonez: Do you have any plans for the game? Do you plan on updating the game with new content, bug fixes, improvements…?

Priom: Initially, after making the game public like this. I wanted to keep it like that. But I’ve mentioned on twitter recently that I haven’t coded anything in the engine for a while due to my PC being broken. So changing certain things based on all the responses I received might be good for me to get back on track. But that all is uncertain. I do have plans on making larger and more polished games using the valuable lessons learned from the experience of making Soul Warrior Merope though. So I’d like to end this by thanking everyone who decided to give the game a shot. Thank you!

End of the interview

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And with that all said, I found this quite an enjoyable experience to write an article like this. Maybe if I have the time, I might write another one on a different game. In any case, I want to thank my buddy Priom quite a lot for giving me the chance to be a part of his dream and giving me the chance of writing this special article with him.

So, I highly recommend that you give this game a try. It might be a bit experimental and a bit rough around the edges but I honestly think that this won’t be his last project and any constructive feedback you send him, he can use to become an even better developer. On top of that, his very first game is pretty enjoyable and has quite a lot of charm.

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

Game Quicky: Pixel Gladiator (Switch) ~ Defend Your Base!

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It’s a well-known fact that a lot of games get ported to the Nintendo Switch. Drageus Games is a studio that ports various indie and small scale games to the Nintendo Switch. Today I’m taking a look at Pixel Gladiator. The original game is called Flying Island Team. I was unable to find much more information on this team. In any case, Drageus Games provided me with a review code for this game and gave me the freedom to give my 100% true opinion. So, let’s take a look at Pixel Gladiator and feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

The good

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This game is quite easy to pick up and play. While there is no tutorial present, the game is easy enough to understand.

The audiovisual design of this game is extremely well done. Visually, the game has pretty nice pixel art and the animations are quite rich for the low price point of this game.

The music is totally my style of music. The techno and trance melodies in the game are that good that I actually want to add them to my library. I’m so glad that the soundtrack is on Steam so I can buy it and listen to it whenever I want.

The gameplay loop of this game is very enjoyable. You have to buildup your base with the earnings of the defeated enemies. You have to buildup your base to defend your core. When your core is destroyed or if you run out of health, it’s game over.

The UI is one of the better I have seen in Drageus Games their ports. The only minor complaint I have is that there is no test noise when you adjust the volume of the sound effects. But the menu’s are quite easy to navigate and work with.

There are a lot of different languages in the game. So, if you want to play this game in your native language and you speak English, Russian, Ukrainian, French, German or Spanish… Well, you are in luck.

Not every round is the same. I noticed that a lot of different enemies can spawn in the survival mode at random times. So, you can’t form a strategy for the next time you have to go through the same route. You have to guess and prepare yourself and your base.

The bad

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Even when the game has a fun gameplay loop, looks and sounds nice; that doesn’t mean that the game is good. There are some major flaws in this game.

First of all, while there is a leaderboard, there is no way to easily see your own personal high scores. To make matters even worse, it’s unclear in which sort of stage those people achieved that high score and how long ago. So, it’s a big guessing game.

Secondly, this game has no save feature as far as I can tell. Yes, you are reading this correctly. Whenever you exit the game or go to the main menu, you have to restart everything from the beginning of the game in survival mode or Arena mode.

Thirdly, the controls are decent but make some mistakes. The aiming is too sensitive for my liking and not only that… You don’t have an option to invert it or adjust the sensitivity. Oh, but it gets even worse! Jumping is done by holding the left stick up. And so, if you want to jump over the barrier on the left side… You have to hold the joystick to the upper left. If you don’t adjust the position of the joystick, guess what, you keep jumping up left. And if you made a turn with that jump, your crosshair doesn’t move with you.

The fourth issue I have with this game has to do with the randomness of the stages. While it keeps you on your toes, it does make the game unfair at certain stages. Because in some cases, you have to survive a meteor storm. In other cases, there are a ton of spring balls attacking you. It’s quite impossible to prepare and this means that a lot is based on luck.

The 5th issue with this game has to do with the difficulty scaling. This is broken beyond belief in my opinion. The difficulty wraps up so fast, it’s quite tricky to keep up with. In addition to that, not every enemy drops money. So, this makes it even trickier. Add on top of that, that there is no tutorial… and you have a recipe for disaster. I had to learn every small mechanic in the game. From not being able to heal during waves to the reactor core healing itself at the end of the wave. From being unable to do a melee attack and how to survive those meteor storms. Oh, and let’s not forget that the tougher enemies look the same as the regular enemies so you don’t know with which one you are dealing with!

Something I also missed in this game was the fact that there wasn’t some sort of radar. It would be quite helpful to see where and how many enemies were coming from the other side of the screen. This would help me to avoid various enemies that appeared a bit too quickly from off-screen to avoid.

And finally, this game has a story, but you only know that story when you either read the press material or the store description. And the story has a lot of potentials. Why was this unused?

Verdict

While this game looks great and can be enjoyable to play, the various amount of issues that this game has will appear quite quickly. The game doesn’t have any bugs and the audiovisual presentation is quite decent, I’ll give it that. But, the lack of a tutorial, balanced gameplay, floaty aiming controls, the inability to save your progress… It all adds up.

Now, do I recommend this game? Well, I don’t really know. The game can be a really fun timewaster and fun to play, but I don’t think that I can recommend this game in its current state to a lot of people.

I felt that this game has been released too quickly. Since it’s such a shame to see the potential that this game has gone to waste. Maybe this game can be improved with various patches. If the game gets a patch, I would love to see a better aiming system, tighter controls, the ability to save and a better balance in the gameplay. A tutorial and a radar can be added in a later patch.

So yeah, if you are interested in giving this game a try, by all means; go for it! But keep in mind that this game is quite rough around the edges and can get quite frustrating. Know that this review has been written after playing the Switch v1.0.0. Maybe in the future, we might see a better version and maybe the PC version plays quite differently…

You might notice the low score I give this game. Maybe this game was not my cup of tea. But I felt that the negatives of this title far outweigh the positives here. If this game ever gets an update that changes a lot about the gameplay, I might change that score. Other reviewers give this game a higher score, but I feel that the score is a bit too generous.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. 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.

Score: 40/100

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