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NekoJonez’s November 2019 Update

Hello there, dear reader! Thank you for checking out my blog and taking time out of your day to check out this post. 2019 is coming to a close but not only that, a new decennium is going to start soon as well. I’m quite excited about it and I have a couple of plans for the future. But, I think it’s best that I mention a few things in an update article to keep my readers up to date. So, that’s why we are here. Let’s dive right into the updates about my personal life and my blog. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion and/or suggestions.

Blog updates

Something I have been promising in a lot of update articles is the fact that I’m proofreading my blog and trying to get rid of as many typos as I can. Now, I understand the argument that there shouldn’t be any, to begin with, but I’m human and spell checking isn’t my strong suit.

Now, I’m happy to say that since writing this update article, I have updated every article that I published in 2019 and a part of 2018. I’m also fixing broken links and broken images.

So, whenever you see a typo or a sentence that doesn’t make sense, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, in the comments, on Discord or on any place you catch me. I’m always happy to receive feedback and even when it’s a small typo that I have overlooked. I’m also going to do my best in the feature to avoid as many mistakes as I can.

Apart from that, I have also started working on various other things like improving the overview pages, updating outdated information on the about me page and various other pages. I’m planning to somewhat merge a few pages and I have started working on that as well.

Besides that, I’m also thinking about creating new artwork and new logos for my blog. On top of that, I’m trying to work out a new theme for my blog as well. I have been using a similar site theme for so many years now, I think it’s high time for something new. But, before I do that, I want to finish reworking all the pages, categories and fixing the typos and grammar mistakes.

Lately, I’m quite busy with my personal life. I’ll talk a bit more about that in a later part of this article. This means that I’m running behind on developer requests and I even had to scrap a few. But, I’m going to try and catch up. Instead of publishing them on the weekends, I’ll publish them whenever they are done.

Now, I have a few major plans for December. Of course, I’ll publish the usual end of the year spiel but besides that, I have a few games in mind that I want to write about. In January 2020, I’m planning various nostalgic posts to look back at the past 10 years in gaming.

Before I got to the updates about my personal life, I think it’s time for the usual “update”. That is: I’m quite active on Twitter. So, when I have to skip a week or when I have updated a page or when I want to share something, you can follow it on Twitter. Most of these updates in this article are tweets I have posted in the past few months.

Personal life stuff

So, one huge piece of news is that my girlfriend @notthatalice94 started her own personal blog. You can find her on NotThatAlice’s Creative Space. On that blog, she will be mostly writing about her creative projects like photography or sewing but also about things that happened in her life. If you enjoy lifestyle blogging, be sure to check her blog out. Sure, the blog is still a work in progress, but I’m helping her out. And maybe, I’ll be writing a few guest posts on there. These posts will be mostly about things that have nothing to do with games. Of course, NotThatAlice might still write gaming-related articles on this blog as well.

So, 2019 was an extremely crazy year for me. My mental health wasn’t the best during this year but thanks to amazing friends and family I have been improving slowly. I’m also recovering from a major writing burn-out which caused me to skip several weeks. This means that I wrote fewer articles this year and my stats really show that. Last year, I had over 25k visitors to my site. In 2019, I currently have 13k. Which isn’t bad, but it’s a major decline in readers. Yet, it is better numbered then the number of people who read my blog in 2017, which were just over 12k people and we still have a month and a half to go.

Since I met NotThatAlice in March of this year, my schedule became filled pretty quickly. We have been doing so many different activities together and I have been enjoying my time quite a lot. I could write a very long love letter, but I don’t think this is the right article for it. Anyways, the reason that I mention this is that in the future my reviews might have her viewpoint as well.

Something else I have been doing is a major cleaning in my collection and my gaming room. I noticed that I had a lot of unused cables, broken handhelds, empty batteries, books I don’t read anymore… Because of this, I have a lot more room in my gaming area but this also means that I came across a ton of games I haven’t written an article on and I want to replay.

In the past few months, I have also been playing games I have started in the past but never finished. A lot of games I have written a first impression article on but never a review. So, maybe I’ll write a few follow up articles on games I have wrote first impression articles on. I have an interesting format in mind, so that might be fun.

And that is everything major that’s been happening in my life. I’m sorry for the shorter article this week, but there are a lot of events going on in my personal life and I have been reorganizing and decluttering my life. And I think that this made my last few articles even better.

In any case, thank you for reading this update 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 Impressions: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) ~ Kotaro Uchikoshi Is At It Again.

Official website

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One of my favorite horror series is the Zero Escape series. I have reviewed every game here on my blog. I have played through all of these games again this year since I introduced the series to my girlfriend. When I’m reviewing adventure games or visual novels, I often find myself referencing 999, Virtue’s Last Reward or Zero Time Dilemma. Now, sadly enough this trilogy of games has ended with Zero Time Dilemma. Now, last month I learned that the director and main writer of the series were finishing development on a new game. Ai: The Somnium Files. When I saw Kotaro Uchikoshi’s name in the promotion material, I got extremely hyped. I honestly pre-ordered the game right away. Now, do I regret that pre-order or was it worth it? I’m going to give you an answer to that question in the form of this first impression review of the game. And before I start, I always say: feel free to leave a comment with your opinion in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game itself.

Date and Aiba

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In this game, you play as special agent Date who is investigating a gruesome murder. Now, this is unlike any detective game because Date has a special ability. His left eye is quite special. In this left eye, an AI lives. This AI is called Aiba and helps Date to make phone calls, access databases, x-ray vision, zooming and so much more. On top of that, Date can explore people’s somnium, which is created by their dreams. These dreams can help in the investigation whenever you need to get information out of a witness that refuses to give testimony.

The story is quite complex and takes a lot of twists and turns. Like the previous games that Uchikoshi worked on, this game has branching paths as well. Depending on certain actions you take during the somnium exploration, the story can go in very different directions. Now, I have already seen one ending of the game and it even got me a bit emotional while playing it. The writing and pacing of this game are wonderful. While there is some dry and lame humor in this game, the actual jokes work quite well and made me and my girlfriend laugh out loud more than once.

I’m leaving quite a lot of details on the story out on purpose since this game is better experienced without a lot of knowledge of the story. Go in this game as blind as possible. Since the twists are better without knowing them in advance. Which honestly, speaks for itself don’t you think? Now, something that I quite liked is the various nods to the Zero Escape series. Certain sound effects and visual cues come from or are heavily inspired by the Zero Escape series.

Now, before I talk more about that comparison, I want to talk about the voice acting. While you can play through this game with the original Japanese cast, I’m playing through this game with the English voice actors and I have to say that the dub of this game is amazing. The cast has been cast quite well. Maybe I might be a bit biased since I’m heavily invested in the story and now I’m quite used to the voice work of the voice actors.

He is at it again

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The gameplay in this visual novel is quite varied. This isn’t a visual novel where just choosing between a few options makes the difference. In this visual novel, there are various puzzles to solve and dialogue trees to explore. The first gameplay type is simply one where you explore a location. This can be a crime scene or the house of a suspect. In these scenes, the Date doesn’t move around. You explore your surroundings to find various clues and leads. To make sure you didn’t miss anything, whenever the text turns green whenever you move over the cursor over something, that means that there is still some interaction to be done. If the text turns gray, you have done every possible interaction.

So you go through various dialogue trees where you get new information. Whenever you missed something, you can quickly bring up the log and replay the voice clips. Something that I found a bit missing, is a sort of summary of the events that happened. Since very different things happen in the story depending on the path you take. So, a quick summary of past events might be helpful. Especially since there are character bios and a word list where various terms are explained.

Speaking of these character bios and terms, these are handled amazingly. The various hidden jokes and references add so much to the atmosphere of the game. Especially the way how some explanations are written, it’s almost like writers are talking to the player directly. Sometimes even saying that if you want more information that you “have to look it up on the internet.” And as an IT guy, I found the binary joke in one of the character profiles an extremely nice touch.

Now, the exploration in this game is quite limited and somewhat linear. While you can choose which location you visit first, it doesn’t make a difference in the story if you go in order or out of order. So, this is quite linear. Now, the dream sequences are something completely different. Now, if you played any game in the Zero Escape series, you will quickly get used to these sections. These dream puzzles are the escape rooms of this game, but the big difference is that you can move in the whole area.

If you compare the gameplay of this game with any game in the Zero Escape series, I have to compliment this game for improving the dialogue sections of the game. The dialogue and story sections are more involved now and you can choose in which order you experience it. This makes the game more accessible and doesn’t dump a lot of text and story on you all at once.

That said, now the dream sequences and puzzles are a blast to play through. Some of them are a tad bit too easily to my liking, but the later puzzles more than makeup for it. For one puzzle, I even considered using a walkthrough but after a lot of trial and error, I figured it out and it gave me such an amazing feeling.

In each puzzle, you have to unlock various mental locks. You can do this by exploring and interacting with the dream. Because you are exploring a dream, extremely strange things can happen. So, you have to make sure you understand why and what is going wrong. There is a catch, you have 6 minutes to solve the whole puzzle. If you don’t, you get a game over. You can use 3 tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. If you go back one checkpoint, you use one token. If you go back two checkpoints, you use 2 tokens.

Now, you have to plan your actions right since each action uses a certain amount of time. With some actions, you earn special bonuses that can increase or decrease the used time in the game. It’s very important that you plan ahead and that you are sure of the option you pick. Now, whenever you are standing still, your clock ticks down slower than when you are moving. Take this time to plan out your moves and make sure you aren’t losing time by walking in the wrong direction.

This whole mechanic gives the game a very tense atmosphere. Am I going to have enough time to crack the other mental locks or have I lost too much time in the previous sections? Sometimes it’s better to restart the whole puzzle instead of using your tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. Now, you can also use these tokens during gameplay. The time you had on the clock is the time you have when you return to that checkpoint. You get 3 tokens for each puzzle and they reset whenever you restart the whole puzzle.

I was pretty interested in the game whenever I saw the teaser trailer, but the gameplay is not disappointing me at all. It’s one of the best games I have played this year. And to be honest, if the quality of the game keeps up during the rest of the game, I think there are big chances that this game might be my Game Of The Year. And yes, maybe my bias towards the author and director of this game might have some to do with it, but you still have to deliver a great product and gameplay and story-wise, I think they more than succeed here.

Pretty and funny

AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES_20190905202822

Visually, this game looks amazing. The detail in the character models and the environment are just amazing. Compared to Zero Time Dilemma, the animation work got a huge overhaul. The character portraits are no longer static, they have the same animation as the actual characters on screen. That way you can still see their animations whenever you missed their animations because you were looking around.

The little details in the animations are mindblowing. For example, there was a scene where a teacher was talking about a student and when she was talking about the student, her head actually moved towards the student itself and the student broke her idle animation and looked at her teacher. These things might be small moments but are moments that give just that bit of extra flavor and atmosphere to the game.

On top of that, the audiovisual presentation of this game is equally as good as the animation. Some parts of the soundtrack reminded me of a lot of the music that’s used in the Zero Escape series. Now, there are some sound effects that are exactly the same from the Zero Escape series like the save sound and some other sound effects. If it’s intentional, I found it a great easter egg for people who played the previous games. Now, it’s also quite possible that they used the same sound library to save some development money and even if that’s the case, I wouldn’t mind at all.

Surprisingly, the composer of this game also wrote the music for BloodStained and the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games on (3)DS. The Zero Escape series’ soundtracks were composed by Shinji Hosoe who wrote music for Fate/Extra and Tekken 6. The composer of this game is Keisuke Ito and he did an amazing job with his team to create this soundtrack.

One of the biggest shames of this game is the fact that sometimes those games have some stuttering or some major slowdowns during gameplay. Thankfully these don’t have that often and it only affects the Visuals and not music nor the voice acting. Most of these slowdowns happen during dialogues or when a lot of animation is playing. On these moments, the fan of my Switch didn’t blast me away like in Dragon Quest Builders 2.

If I’m allowed to nitpick just a minor bit, I can’t remember exactly where but there are just 1 or 2 lines that aren’t voice acted. These are very short lines and if you are just following the story, you might not even notice them. I clearly remember that one of these lines was said by Date somewhere in the first few sections of the story. I think it was in a conversation between Boss, Aiba, and Date. But given the whole script of this game, just one or two missed lines is something that isn’t THAT bad and can be easily looked over.

This game has only one difficulty level. The overall difficulty of this game is quite well done, the difficulty scaling is very well done. Some puzzles require some trial and error but once it clicks, the whole thing makes sense. The biggest challenge is in the exploration of the dreams since you need to think fast and think about the time limit.

The controls of this game are almost perfect. The only thing that’s missing is touchscreen controls. But hey, that’s huge nitpick since the controls are quite responsive and easily mastered. Thanks to the amazing UI, I can find any negatives about the controls and UI. Apart from maybe one minor thing. I find the text in the word list and character bios a little bit too small to read when I’m playing in docked mode and when I’m sitting a bit too far away from the screen. All the other text can be read just fine, apart from that part.

I’m also forgetting to talk about something quite important and that’s the save system. While there is an autosave system present in the game, you also have three save slots you can use. Thanks to these three save slots, I’m able to continue to play the game by myself but also save at the point me and my girlfriend left off so we can pick up the game right where we left off when we play it the next time.

Now there is some minor replay value when you want to unlock everything. During each Somnium, there is an eye hidden that when collected and finished the Somnium without failing; you unlock additional concept art. These are quite fun to watch and a great reward for people who explore the game to the smallest detail.

Now, this review is already getting extremely long for a first impression. It’s quite clear what I’m thinking of this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this first impression up. This game comes highly recommend to everybody who enjoys adventure games, puzzle games, mystery games, visual novel games and games like the Zero Escape series. This game is one of the best games I have played in 2019 and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. Apart from some minor flaws like the slowdowns, this game is in my eyes as good as perfect. It’s such a shame that this game doesn’t get the publicity that it deserves. I hope that with this article more people give this game a try and give it the audience it deserves. 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.

One minor side note, this game is also on PS4 and PC.

My Favorite Game Music #23 ~ Maybe with a jukebox?

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More articles in this series

It has been quite some time since I wrote about my favorite music tracks in gaming. It has been a year since I talked about music. So, for those who don’t know how this series works, let me quickly explain it to you. My favorite music to listen to are the soundtracks of movies, games, shows… I have enjoyed. In this series, I talk about my favorite tracks or the tracks I love to listen too. Now, a rule in this series is that I’m only allowed to talk about one track per franchise per article. Otherwise, most of these articles might get filled with tracks from my favorite games. Also, I don’t include remixes in these articles; unless it’s special, then I only talk about game-related music or remixes. Now, this one is one about the original music. But, let’s stop stalling. Let’s get to talking about gaming music. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the selection and/or the music.

Forager (Switch) ~ Boss Fight

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Forager, a game that is the love child of HopFrog. When I discovered the story behind this game, I found that the developer a real inspiration.

Besides that, this game is quite an interesting one. The game is inspired by Terreria, Minecraft, The Legend of Zelda and Stardew Valley. At the moment, I’m playing the game on Nintendo Switch. I know that the Steam version is more complete, but yeah. I didn’t know that this game was a PC game at first.

I’ll talk about my opinion on this game in a future article but for now, I want to draw your attention to the existence of this game with linking you to one best track in the trance/dance/techno soundtrack of this game.

I really can’t wait to play the update that’s now in BETA on the PC. I hope it comes soon to the Switch version so I can play these new things. Since they are looking quite interesting.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Switch) ~ Gears of Fortune

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The Metroidvania games are back and how! Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is one just a joy to play. It’s also one of the next articles that I’m writing for my blog.

I know that I’m playing this game on the platform with the weakest visual performance, but honestly, I don’t really care. The game is still a blast to play.

Now, the music is addictive to listen too. It might be one of the best soundtracks I heard this year. The tunes really stick in your head and I was unable to really pick one of them for this article. So, I picked Gears of Fortune just because it’s the track I’m listening to most too during this week. There is no other reason. The soundtrack is really good and if you enjoy this track, you really should give the other tracks a listen.

The orchestral arrangements are just beautiful. The energy of the ruined town and a haunted castle are really well portrayed. You really feel like a warrior on the battlefield really to fight the enemy and try to save the world from destruction. But, can you do that before it’s too late? Well, I think I know which game I’ll be playing after this article is published.

Etrian Odyssey 5 (3DS) ~ Battle 2

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I have been playing so many good games this year. Etrian Odyssey 5 – Beyond the Myth is one of them. It’s sad to see that it’s the final Etrain Odyssey game in the franchise. But, the series had an amazing run for being such a niche game.
For those who don’t know what this game is about, it’s a hard as nails dungeon crawler where you have to draw and create your own map to boot. I have reviewed other games from the series in previous articles.

But, I seriously wish that the Switch wasn’t such a distraction to me since I really want to continue to play this game. This battle theme really gets me pumped to play some more Etrian Odyssey V. The music of this title is amazing as always, so yeah.

A Hat in Time (PC) ~ Nyakuza Metro DLC – Rush Hour

Hat In Time

Review

I haven’t played the DLC packs of A Hat in Time yet. I have played enough to unlock both sections, but I haven’t completed either of them.

Recently, I have been playing the game with my girlfriend in co-op mode and we are having so much fun. So much fun that I copied the whole soundtrack on her phone for her to enjoy. Too bad that her laptop isn’t powerful enough to run the game. Thankfully, she will be able to enjoy this game on the Nintendo Switch really soon.

Now, when I hear the amazing music in the DLC, I’m really pumped to start playing the DLC chapters. But now I’m in a bind, should I start playing them now or should I wait until me and my girlfriend get until that point? This is a tricky question. I think I should wait, so we can both experience the amazing music and new content that this game has to offer.

Pokémon Ranger – Guardian Signs (DS) ~ Rand’s House

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Most of the pieces in this article are great tracks that really get you pumped up to fight or go on a great adventure. This Pokémon track is the complete opposite. It’s more down to earth and relaxing.

Recently, I bought the three Pokémon Ranger games on my Wii U and I have been replaying them. While my favorite music to listen too is the more action-packed music like the four previous tracks, from time to time, I love tracks like these to wind down.

This track is played inside of the more important character’s house. It fits the atmosphere of the conversation really well and fits the mood perfectly. That really reminds me, I should review the two other Pokémon Ranger games shouldn’t I? I have reviewed the first game.

Closing off

And with that, I think it’s time to close off this article. I’m so glad that I wrote this article since it really helped me out. In the last update article, I talked about how I felt a bit burned out on writing and a bit idealess/inspiration less. Well, this article gave me a lot of ideas for future articles and reminded me of a lot of games that I still want to talk about.

With that said, I hope you enjoyed listing to these soundtracks and maybe found some new tracks to add to your playlist. Feel free to let me know in the comments which games also have amazing soundtracks. I would love to hear and play them.

Now, I think it’s high time for my usual closing of the article. Thank you 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!

First Impression: Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe (Switch) ~ Let’s Explore For Tears

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Nintendo.com microwebsite

I remember when ChubbyPixel asked me to review Woodle Tree Deluxe on the Switch in March. I felt like there could have been done so much more with the concept of the game. Recently, the company released the sequel to the Nintendo Switch. Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe. An expanded version of Woodle Tree 2: Worlds on Steam. Now, the asked me to take a look at the sequel as well. While a review key has been provided to write this review, I’ll give my 100% honest opinion on this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Let’s explore for tears

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The story of this game is a direct follow up to the original. In this game, you play as a son of the hero of the original game. Now, the powers of evil have taken over the Wood Lands as revenge. It’s up to you to save the Wood Lands and find the tears again.

The way the story is being told and paced is a lot better than the original. In the original, you have a small cut scene at the start and you got thrown into the hub world. Now, the whole world is the hub world and there is a central place that acts as a sort of overview place where you can buy upgrades and cosmetics.

Before you can go explore the whole map, you go through a sort of tutorial section. The tutorial is quite decent. It teaches you the basic mechanics of the game without being too punishing.

After you have saved the three first tears, you will be allowed to find all the other tears. Right on the map screen, you can see that the game is divided up in several area’s where you can find three tears each. Right there on the map screen, you can also notice that the checkpoints you activate also can be used as warp points. That’s pretty neat.

So, in each area, there are three tears and at least 80 blueberries. You can find your progress of that collection on the mini-map. There are also red berries but there is no counter for that on the map screen. The map screen is quite useful since it tells you where in the world you are and which level it is. The only thing I miss on the map screen is a sort of zoom-in feature that you can use to have a better idea of the current area you are in. Also, it would be extremely handy that you could move the cursor freely around without being restricted to only being able to choose the warp points.

You can bring up the map screen by a simple press of the (+) button. If you use the shoulder buttons, you can use the pause menu. The menu after the map screen is the options menu. Where you can adjust the camera sensitivity, the volume if you want to invert the X-axis or the Y-axis if you want or don’t want anti-aliasing and the language. The controls are listed in this menu, but you can’t change them. In the most recent update, the developers added a lot of languages!

The 3rd and final screen in the pause screen is a total overview of your adventure where you can see how much red berries, blueberries you have and how many tears you have collected.

Now, most of the story is being told through text bubbles. There is no voice acting nor are there any “voice noises” in the game. There are sound effects, but I will talk more on that later in this review. You can easily notice when somebody has something to say because there is a text box floating above their heads. Now, you don’t have to worry to approach them from the wrong side since the text box sort of follows your character while staying on top of the character that’s speaking. The only thing is that the character itself doesn’t follow you.

Wall jumps and double jumps

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If you played a platformer or the original, you will be right at home playing this game. The idea is that through platforming, you find the three tears. In this game, Woodle has few new moves in their arsenal. You have a double jump and a wall jump. You can also use your leaf to float around and to catch water droplets to water dead trees. To easily find your way around in the world, you can also use a telescope. Sadly enough, there isn’t a run button insight.

It’s not that your character is moving slow, the world is a tad bit too big. It would be extremely helpful that you had a run button or some way to make traveling faster. Thankfully the warp mechanic is really fast, so once you unlocked the waypoints, it’s easy to get there fast. It also helps you out in a pinch. Just take a look at this tweet. Yes, I got stuck inside a house I wasn’t supposed to get into. Or the moment I was able to let the character do a sort of moonwalk.

Now, the reason that I called this section, wall jumps and double jumps are because I feel like there is some sort of conflict in the code. I found it a bit difficult when I wanted to use my double jump to get onto a higher ledge because I jumped away from the wall since a wall kick was used.

This caused me a few deaths. Thankfully, there is no life system in place. After a few hits, you respawn at the checkpoint you used last. Checkpoints are also used as save points. So, whenever you need to save, you can easily warp to a checkpoint and the game automatically saves your progress. Now, the game only has one save slot, so it’s impossible that two or more people have their own playthrough at the same time.

Overall, the controls are quite responsive. While I sometimes have to fight the camera, I don’t think that the controls are that bad. They could use some polish, especially in the above-mentioned wall jump mechanic. Now, the game drops the ball in two other areas.

First of all, the visual presentation is something that needs some work. Overall the game looks fine and the animations are decent. Visually the game looks amazing for being a budget title. But, there are multiple popping issues and in some area’s I even had some major frame drops when the area was loading in. And in some areas, the place suddenly totally changed like in this video/tweet.

The character is sometimes quite jittery, especially when you are floating down. You can attack during your floating down without losing height or momentum. Textures and models pop in and out. The leaf you use sometimes just turns white, like when you are floating down… The game needs polish in the performance of the visuals.

Speaking of the visual presentation, the lighting is extremely off. Now, I can understand that when the enemies come and attack you, the scene goes dark. It is the powers of evil after all. But, for example on the beach, the lighting is so strong… the yellow that’s used for sand was sometimes quite painful to look at. Besides that, I had different lighting in a similar area without any rime or reason. I also posted that in a video on Twitter.

A final thing in the visual department I think that could have been improved is the design of some enemies. At first, I wasn’t able to tell some enemies apart from NPCs. This was a problem during the tutorial since I was attacking an NPC that looked an awful lot like an enemy from the original game.

Now, a great thing about the visual department is how your health is being displayed. The size of the leaf is basically your health. How smaller it is, how closer you are to death. Unlike the first game, you can be hit multiple times in this game. This makes the game more forgiving and more fun to play.

It’s a shame really since the game is looking quite charming and fun to play. If only these issues with the visual presentation weren’t present, then the game could have been so much better. Sadly enough, this isn’t the only major issue with the game.

Spooky silence

WOODLE TREE 3

The game itself isn’t too hard. When you get used to the controls and the mechanics of the game, you are able to find your way around quite easily. Enemies can be easily avoided and sometimes just buying an upgrade can make the game a literal walk in the park.

Now, the 2nd big issue with this game is the audio design. Don’t misunderstand me, the music and sound effects of this game are all quite well done but there isn’t enough. Some things are lacking sound effects like hitting switches or elevators. But the biggest issue is the music. The music is amazing but there are a lot of areas where the music doesn’t play and you hear silence. You only hear the sound effects of the game.

It’s a shame since each area has its own unique musical theme that really fits with the atmosphere of that area. But the area’s in between stay silent. But, sometimes the music just loops wrong as well. There are these flowers you can run into to get a speed boost. Each time you hit a flower, the musical jingle restarts. This is quite annoying in my opinion. I wish it just extended playing the jingle. And let’s not forget to mention that the animation is quite inconsistent with these speed boosts. In some areas, a roll animation starts playing and in some area’s it looks like you are gliding over the ground.

Should I be so harsh on this game? The game is fun, has a lot of love and creativity in it. The game costs 12 bucks and is quite often on sale. The developers are quite responsive and if you find a bug and report it to them, they fix it in the next patch. Even when another game has come out. Still, I see the potential that this game has and I just wish that the game was more polished.

Something that I’m quite content with this game is the fact that this game shows a lot of potential for the following games of the studio. I have been working with this studio since the first Suicide Guy game. I have seen the quality of each of their titles improve and grow. And this game impressed me quite a lot. I’m quite thankful that I got a key from them to review this game since I think that this game shows a lot of potential for the future.

Now, something that I would love to see in a sequel to this game is less technical issues and more things to do besides looking for blueberries and the tears. Expand the game and the universe. Maybe have a cross over with the Suicide Guy series, besides being it as an easter egg.

So yeah, I think I’m going to continue playing this game. The charm of this game really has won me over. I can recommend this game to other players, but keep in mind that this game has some technical issues in its current state. Maybe some future patches will improve on this, who knows.

And that’s for now, everything that I have to say on this game. 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.

NekoJonez’s August 2019 Update

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Hello there, it has been a long time since I spoke to my readers directly. It has been since April that I have written an update article. So, yeah, it’s time to talk about the rest of 2019 and what that means for my blog. Now, if you are wondering who these two people are on the picture. The right guy is me. And the girl in the picture is my girlfriend who already wrote two articles here. Soon, she will write another article here too. If you want to follow her, you can do so over on her Twitter. Without further ado, let’s get into the updates because there is quite a lot to talk about!

Personal things

2019

I think that 2019 will be the strongest year so far. A lot has been changing in my personal life making my schedule and day to day life quite unpredictable.

In the past four months, my work schedule changed. I had to work on Saturdays, but I had Thursdays off. I spent most of these Thursdays with my girlfriend.

For those who don’t know yet, since late March 2019, I met NotThatAlice and it didn’t take long before we became a couple. I mean, two retro gamers who are into waiting YouTube, exploring cities and nature, working on creative things… It’s a match made in heaven.

Now, starting from next week, something quite big is happening in my professional career. I signed a contract to work as an administrative and IT guy in one of my local schools. This is a personal dream of mine. A lot of people in my family have worked or are working in the education sector. From science teachers to mentoring of new teachers. I’m 5 generations in succession. Now, yes, I’m the first who isn’t going to be teaching… But, I’m honestly considering to start those evening classes again to get my teaching degree. But, that’s something I’m considering. If I’m going to start classes again, I’ll surely update you, readers.

You might have noticed that since late 2018 the number of articles that I’m writing and publishing is dropping. Usually, I write 4 articles each month, but lately, it’s only three articles a month or even fewer. This has a few reasons. Earlier I said that for the past 4 months, I have been working on Saturdays and spending time with my girlfriend on my day off. That meant that I only had Sunday to write and publish an article. This didn’t always work out.

On top of that, I’m still recovering from my bad mental health that started last year. A side effect of that bad mental health is that I actually had a writing burn-out making it even more difficult for me to focus on my writing. I have scrapped quite a lot of articles because they didn’t turn out quite right or weren’t up to the quality I wanted them to be.

While I could take a break from writing, I don’t think that’s the right solution for me. I just love writing a bit too much. Thankfully, I think I have a solution. You might have noticed that in the last few articles that I have written, that my writing style has changed a bit and that I’m experimenting with a few unique ideas to change things up. This is having a great effect on me and I’m getting back into writing.

Anyways, before I start talking about the blog updates, I want to mention that a lot has changed to my personal set-up in the past few months. I have upgraded my personal gaming rig with a new graphics card. I upgraded my GeForce 660 to a GeForce 1050. So, I now have a 4GB graphics card in my gaming rig. I also use a newer monitor that supports a newer standard of HDMI and things of that nature. Apart from that, I have bought myself a mouse mat and a wrist rest. This helps me to not have RSI issues while I’m writing or while I’m gaming.

In terms of my old retro computers, I have outfitted my Windows XP machine with an old WiFi card, so I now can mess around with those titles and get the latest version of all the drivers without having to use some sort of crazy setup. I also refurbished an old computer to a spare Windows XP machine. On top of that, I busted out all my computers and consoles to make them run more quite and have a longer life.

Blog updates

Before I get into the updates to my blog, I want to mention something about collabs. If you are interested in being a part of a big collab like my Zelda and Tomb Raider retrospective, I have good news. My friend, the Well-Red Mage, who organized the Final Fantasy retrospective together with OverThinkery is organizing a new one. It’s almost like Red and I take turns in doing one big retrospective. I guess that it’s my turn at the end of next year.

In all seriousness, the reason I’m talking about this is that I’m actually going to be a part of this big collab. It’s going to be about Mario and we are still looking for writers. More information can be found in the linked article. But this time, I’ll be helping Red with the admin and behind the scenes work in this whole collab. So, yeah.

Speaking off collabs, I’m also going to be a part of NormalHappenings’ Characters That Define Us. I’m going to write a special article about my love for the character of Lara Croft. While I have sort of done that already with the Tomb Raider retrospective… I have an idea to make the article still quite interesting to read. More information can be read here.

More information about both of these collabs will come in the future. Because these two things are still in the works and are subject to change, I don’t want to say things that might not even happen to avoid disappointment.

So, we are entering the final 4 months of 2019. As said earlier in this article, this year has been quite crazy for me. But, I still have a plan for the ending of 2019. Now, before I talk about that I want to mention like in every update article that the best way to keep up-to-date with me is to follow my Twitter feed.

With that said, here is a preview of the things I have been planning for the ending of 2019. For this week, I’m going to publish two reviews on two developers who requested my feedback. I have a couple of games I want to talk about in the final four months of 2019. As usual, I’ll end the year with my top 10 games of the year and the games I’m looking forward to playing in 2020.

My girlfriend also has a few articles she wants to write. From what she told me, they are going to be extremely interesting to read. It’s going to be a very different look at how games are played. I’m quite excited to read it actually.

So, I’m planning to use the remainder of 2019 to write about games I love to reference but of which I haven’t written an article yet. While also talking about a whole boatload of amazing new games I have been playing this year, it’s going to be challenging.

Still, due to me still recovering from a writers’ burn-out and my bad mental health, it’s possible that I’m going to write and publish 3 articles each month, excluding guest posts or press kits. Yet, if I’m in the mood and when I have the time, it’s possible that I’m going to publish more than 3 in a month. It all depends on the time and energy that I have. Yet, I’ll be writing a minimum of 3 articles each month.

The final thing I want to talk about is something that also always returns in these articles. And that’s the reorganization of my blog. I have been thinking about a lot of different things. From merging series into one to moving to a self-hosted website and changing the URL. Now, I have decided that the blog rework will be a focus of mine in 2020. This year has been so rough, I think it’s best that I’m first going to settle in my new job and make a great plan of action so that I don’t make mistakes if I decide to make major upgrades.

So, with that said, I think you guys and girls are up to date with the latest happenings in my life and the future for this blog. A lot of fun things are going to come to this blog and I’m already working on a few projects for 2020. It’s going to be so much fun and I can’t wait to see what you will think about it. Anyways, it’s time for my usual last words to close off this article.

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

Game Quicky: Sweet Witches + Swaps & Traps (Switch) ~ Sweet Traps?

Today I’m going to do something special. I’m going to write a game quicky about two games. The reason for that is that I got both games from the publisher at the same time, so I’m going to review them at the same time. Earlier this year, my girlfriend reviewed another game they published called Dead Dungeon. So, let’s take a look at their latest offering on the Switch. Sweet Witches & Swaps and Traps. Disclaimer, the publisher asked me to give my 100% honest opinion on these games, so that’s what you will find in this article. If you are unfamiliar with the Game Quicky series on my blog, these articles are a quick review of the game. I also use this series to review smaller games that don’t have a lot of stories or are rather short. In any case, let’s start with one of the games. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment down in the comment section with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the games.

Sweet Witches

Nintendo UK microsite – Publisher website – Developer website

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The gameplay

You play as one of two witches and try to plant flowers in order to earn candy.

Each level plays on one screen where you need to avoid enemies to pass each soil patch once to plant a flower. When you planted a flower on each soil patch, you can continue to the next level. Some enemies can even destroy your flowers, so plan out your route carefully. That’s the basic gist of this game.

The good

NSwitchDS_SweetWitches_02When you boot up the main menu, the charm of the game is quite clear. A lot of love went into the game. The visual presentation is amazing in this game. The artwork looks a bit creepy and cute at the same time. In addition to that, the animations are quite well done.

Depending on the difficulty setting you choose, you can adjust elements of the game. In the easiest difficulty: you can adjust the number of lives, the speed of the enemies and friendly fire. Since you can choose to play this game alone or even in co-op mode. Besides that, you even have a multiplayer mode. I’ll talk about the single-player a bit later but the multiplayer looks like a lot of fun. If you are looking for an interesting multiplayer game, this is the game you should take a look at. The idea is that you play a level but try to get as many of your own flowers planted. The more the merrier. You can also change the flowers of your opponent in your own flowers by simply walking over them. In addition to that, your opponents can attack you and you also have to dodge enemies.

The UI and controls of this game are responsive and good. I would change two things. The first thing is that you can use the (+) button in the game to go to the menu to adjust settings or go to the main menu. The other thing is that it’s unclear when your game is saved and if you choose the story mode if you are going to continue or start a new game. But, besides these two things, the UI is pretty good. The controls are easy to get used to and are useful in hairy situations.

The bad

NSwitchDS_SweetWitches_01While the animations and visual presentation are quite amazing, there is so much they could have done to improve this game even more. For example, it would be extremely handy if the soil changed when you planted a flower on it. During some levels, I had trouble to see which patches I missed. Another example is that after the screen transition to the new level, you have to quickly scan the bottom of the screen to find out where you spawn. It could use a bit more fine-tuning.

Something that seriously disappointed me in this game is the sound and music department. Now, the music itself isn’t bad by any means but it totally doesn’t fit the theme of the game at all. The whole soundtrack is from Kevin Macleod, the guy who provided a lot of music that can be freely used in videos and games. But the music selection, oh boy. It’s the generic music I hear in a ton of other YouTube videos and to be honest, I have heard them a bit too much.

On top of that, there were a lot of moments where I felt that there were sound effects actually missing from the game. From completing a stage to ladder climbing sounds. If there is one area where they dropped the ball, it’s in the sound and music department.

To be quite honest and frank, the single-player isn’t too much fun. It got old pretty quickly for me. There is no jump button, so avoid enemies gets quite tough. Very often I got stuck between two enemies and I was unable to escape with a ladder or stun them. Speaking of stunning enemies, you still lose a life when you walk passed a stunned enemy.

The game is also quite unforgiving. There is no way to earn additional lives and if you get hit once by an enemy, you lose a life. Thankfully, you don’t have to redo the whole stage but if you lose all your lives, you do have to redo the whole world. And because you don’t know how many levels are in each world, I got frustrated when I reached the 6th level and suddenly I lost my last life due to a stupid mistake.

This game could have benefited from a bit more variety. Let the player do something else then always planting flowers. For example, getting rid of flowers of the bullies or trying to kill all the enemies in one stage. The repetition of the game is a bit too much. Besides that, the enemies’ AI is so unpredictable you can barely plan out your next move.

I understand that the game is hard to mimic the old school Amiga, but due to that derpy AI, the game gets a bit too frustrating. But, that might just be me.

Conclusion

This game is bittersweet for me. There is a ton of potential for this game. Visually this game looks amazing. But, it’s clear that this game is somewhat rushed on the Nintendo Switch. Personally, I didn’t like the single player that much, but I’m happy that I have this game since I’m quite sure that this game will be a lot of fun at parties. Maybe I should give the co-op game mode a try with my girlfriend.

If you are interested in a cheap and challenging puzzle adventure game, this is the game for you. But do know that it lacks some polish and that there could have been so much more if this game got a better soundtrack and a bit more sound design.

I just think that the reason that I’m disappointed with this game is that I see the unused potential and only wished that they delivered that game instead of what we got. Maybe they can improve this with some patches or a sequel, but only time will tell.

Score: 5/10

Swaps and Traps

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Nintendo UK microsite – Publisher website – Developer website

The gameplay

So, if you remember Dead Dungeon, you will be quite familiar with the gameplay of this game. The idea is that you get a key to open the door to the next level. But, there is a twist. When you get the key, the antagonist “The Divider” actually swaps part of the level. So, you have to figure out how to jump while getting parts of the level and pasted elsewhere. This game really challenges your spacial awareness.

The good

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The unique mechanic of this game is just amazing. You really have to think about how you are going to parkour your way around to beat the level. It’s also really confusing because you would think the actual level geometry swaps places as well, but it doesn’t. The original layout of the level stays the same. But the location on the screen changes. You can press the “B” button to see a picture of the level before any swaps occur.

This game is a great game to speedrun. The developers actually knew this and added a speedrun timer. Your overall time and amount of deaths are visible on the pause screen. I only wish that this was also kept somewhere after I had beaten the level. Then again, this might over clutter the UI, so I don’t think that’s a good idea. There is also a leaderboard per level where you can compare your time with the time of other players. I honestly wonder if these are the times of the PC players are also included. But the fact that there are icons of the Nintendo Accounts next to the names, I think it’s the Nintendo Switch version only.

The audio in this game is really nice. The music and the sound effects really help sell this game. I really liked the soundtrack in this game. The voice acting in the cutscenes is really corny and it really fits the atmosphere of this game.

The controls of this game are simple and work almost perfectly. In almost every case, I felt that every death was my own fault. And due to the quick respawning, I was able to quickly give the level another shot. Since this game hooks you in with that: “Just one more level and one more try” mentality.

I adore the UI of this game. Especially on the pause screen. You have quick access to the sound and music settings and you see all the info you need. It’s quick and easy. Great job on that!

The bad

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The leaderboard could be so much more. If only there was a section where you can see the time of friends, that would be amazing.

The fact they ported the achievements over from the Steam version into the Switch version is a bit pointless. I can understand that some players love to try and unlock every achievement but to me, it’s rather pointless. Since you can’t display them on your profile. If only Switch games took achievements a bit more seriously and have them display on your profile screen. But, is this a negative of the game…? Well, yes and no. Let’s not forget that I didn’t even know that I unlocked an achievement when I did since it showed a small icon in the bottom right corner with barely readable text.

This game would be even more amazing if you were able to remap the jump button and the “show picture of the level” button. More often then not, I wanted to jump and I hit the other button. But this is a minor complaint and might just be me.

Conclusion

While this game is extremely confusing and frustrating, it’s a lot of fun to play through. I really enjoyed my time with Switch and Traps and I think it’s a great puzzle platformer.

If you enjoy puzzle platforming games or really hard platformers like Electronic Super Joy or Super Meat Boy, I really think that you should give this game a try. I even had trouble finding negatives for this game. For the price, this game is totally worth your time and money.

Score: 8/10

Closing off

And with that said, I have to thank the people at Drageus Games for providing me with press copies of these games. I actually really enjoyed myself with these games and I enjoyed writing this article and reviewing two games.

I don’t know if I’ll review two games at once in the future in the Game Quicky series but who knows, maybe I might review two small games that are sequels of each other or something. I have to think about that.

Now, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I also hope that I can welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

 

First Impression: Dead Dungeon (Switch) ~ Platforming Your Way

Page on Nintendo.com

Today is an exciting day for me, NekoJonez gave me the chance to write my first, first impressions article. So, any feedback on my writing is welcome. I also got the honor to write an article about a game I got a review copy of from the developer. The developer asked me to give my full honest opinion on the game, so that’s what you are going to read in this article. 

Storytime

The goal of the game is to exit the dungeon that you entered to recover your stolen candies. At every level, you need to collect a key (or in this game, a ghost) to be able to open the door to the next level. It’s somewhat unclear what the purpose is of the donuts are in the levels so I just didn’t collect them.

If you read the description of the game on the Nintendo eShop store page, you discover that you need to bring back the sweets and lost souls, which makes the goal of the game very clear.

Every level of the game is on one screen, you only need to jump from left to right. (And of course up and down) This doesn’t mean that game isn’t complicated though. In some of the levels, you really need to time your jumps to avoid being hit by moving spikes/traps or enemies.

Controls

The controls of the game are quite easy to figure out. You can either use the joystick of the buttons. I preferred the buttons, the joystick is a little harder not to use to much power which makes you die easier.

One thing that I missed was the option to shoot down the enemies, you really had to jump on their heads. Just like a certain plumber.

Design and animations 

Dead Dungeon is a 2D game. This means the game looks very simple. I think the fact that the game is 2D made it more enjoyable to play. The simple look made me feel like I was playing a retro game. Somehow, the character made me think of Courage, the cowardly dog, which hit me with nostalgic feelings.

Even though the game is in 2D, the game doesn’t seem to lack animations and extras to make it look more appealing.

One thing I noticed, was that the levels always had a different color which gave it a little more sense of a designed game.

Difficulty and frustrations

In this game, the goal is to jump from platform to platform and back. The game isn’t that easy and you’ll need a lot of patience. I often felt like throwing my Switch away, but a minute later I started trying again. This game has that “just one more try” mentality. I’ve often played games that made me feel annoyed at not being able to finish a level and just stop right there and then.

Every level has a different design, sometimes you just have to jump without avoiding traps, sometimes the level is full of traps. I will surely keep playing this game to try and finish it.

The difficulty of the game also isn’t really clear, sometimes the levels are easy and sometimes they are kinda difficult which makes it hard to finish.

Music and sound design

The music and sound of the game didn’t really annoy me. After a while, it started to sound a little bit monotonous.

One thing I missed was the sounds when you jumped, died,… These would give the player some more information to work with or time their jumps better.

Overall opinion

When I first opened this game, I thought: “oh well, this doesn’t look too difficult”. Let’s just say, I was very wrong. The fact that you don’t get a lot of text after each level also is a good thing, I don’t really like text-heavy games.

I didn’t really get the goal of the game at the beginning, but that didn’t really keep me from playing. You don’t really need to know the story to be able to play the game.

Jonez and I noticed that it is better to play handheld than docked. In the docked mode, some controls are delayed which makes it hard to finish a level.

People that like old-school games like ink and super meat boy will really like the vibe of this game since it gives you an older vibe and older music.

Thank you for reading my first game review, well, my first “first impression”. I hope you enjoyed reading it. If you have any feedback for me to write better articles in the future, I’m happy to hear it. Otherwise, I hope to welcome you in another article or enjoy another article of Jonez in the near future 🙂

Award Time – Thanks LaterLevels

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Today I got another blog award from LaterLevels. One of those awards that bloggers give each other to recognize each other for their work. If you want to read the article yourself to get more information, you should take a look at Kim’s post. This award is inspired by Michelle from A Geek Girl’s Guide. So, let’s get into answering some questions. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your answers and/or opinions on the article down below. 

Thanks, time

But before I reply to the questions, I have to thank Kim from LaterLevels of course for the recognition. She is a very kind-hearted blogger who I look up to very much. Her content sometimes inspires mine. She is a great person and you really should check out her work on the LaterLevels website.

So the way that this award works is that Michelle has five standard questions everybody needs to answer and 5 questions need to be made up.

Question time

Why did you start your blog?

Well, I have told this story many times before on my blog. The TL;DR is, since childhood I have been into writing. While I have a rather small family, we do have a TON of family friends. And to avoid me telling the same story a million times at family gatherings, I have decided to write them and publish them. Not too long after, I started writing game reviews and that’s how the ball got rolling.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

My favorite articles to write are articles about indie games I have played. The ones I enjoy the most are the ones where the developer asks me for feedback and improvements. I just love helping small developers who have a small budget anyways, so some help in QA is welcome for them.

What have you learned since you started your blog?

This is a tricky question. I have been blogging for close to … yes, 10 years. So, to be able to pinpoint something specific that I learned about due to blogging. I think I mostly found my niche and expanded my skills.

If I have to say something, I think I fine-tuned my writing and reviewing style. If you compare my current writing and style to my earlier writing, you will see a world of difference.

What do you love about being a geeky blog?

Simple, I love geeky things… so being able to write about geeky things is just amazing.

Where would you like to see your blog go in the future?

Actually, if I could dream, I would love to have some side income with my blog in the future. But I still want it to stay a hobby. In an earlier article, I have talked about how I’m afraid that if I would be blogging as a job, I would burn out. And burning out on one of my passions… No, thank you.

And now, LaterLevels has some questions for us.

How would you describe yourself if you could only use gaming terms?

I’m going to be sort of cheating here but I’m an INFJ or the advocate personality. And yes, these are gaming terms. D&D terms actually.

Who would be the worst video game character to be stuck in a lift with?

Zero III, just play Virtue’s Last Reward and you will get it.

If a game based on your life was made, what would be the genre and title?

Well, an adventure/action RPG. Mostly adventure RPG. The things that happen in my life are quite special.

Currently, I’m in the wordsmith and merchant class. I have a lot of points in the tech skill.

Which three video game items would you take into the zombie apocalypse?

A ton of revives, Lara Croft’s classic pistols (those with unlimited ammo) and one of those fancy luxurious airships from the game you image.

Which gaming character should we elect as our next prime minister and why?

Booker Dewitt, and telling why would spoil Bioshock Infinite. So, yeaaaaahhhhh…

Questions

So, before I list the people who I like to nominate, I have five questions of my own. So, are you ready? Here we go.

  • If your life has a soundtrack, which genre would it be?
  • You are a parent of a video game character, who would you pick as your child and why?
  • Which video game character you don’t want to meet in a mental asylum?
  • Would you rather go to Silent Hill or Raccoon City?
  • If real life had video game cheats, which ONE cheat would you like to have and why?

So now, who are my vic— fellow bloggers I nominate for an easy Q and A— I mean an award.

So, with that said, I’m looking forward to the replies. Thank you to LaterLevels for the nomination. And tomorrow, I’ll publish another article and that will be about a game. But for now, 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.

 

Review: Pokémon Diamond, Pearl & Platinium (DS) ~ Where Is Our Remake, Nintendo?

pokemon_dppt

Bulbapedia entry

It has been quite a while since I talked about the Pokémon series. But today I noticed that I haven’t written an article on the 4th generation of Pokemon games. I think it’s high time to do something about that. Now, I want to tell the story of how I acquired this game. Just when I got my DS, I only had one game. The Legend of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass. Not too long after, my sister and I went to buy new games. She bought it together with me, Nintendogs since she was 10 € short. While I bought Pokémon Pearl. The nostalgic memories are quite extreme for this game. I played this game quite a lot, sometimes through the night while hiding my DS underneath my pillow to avoid getting caught. But, is the game still good or are my nostalgia goggles clouding my judgment? Let’s take a look at the 4th generation of Pokémon games. As per usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game.

Where is our remake Nintendo?

pokmon_pearl_image10A lot of the early generation Pokémon games got a remake from Nintendo. The first generation, Pokémon Blue/Red and Yellow, has been remade on the Nintendo GBA and more recently on the Nintendo Switch. The second generation, Pokemon Gold/Silver and Crystal, got a remake on the Nintendo DS. The third generation, Ruby/Sapphire and Emerald, got a remake on the 3DS.

Fans are hoping for a remake of the Sinnoh region on the Nintendo Switch. The fully experience the story of this 4th generation all over again. Fans want to start in Twin Leaf Town again, together with your childhood rival, meeting the evil team in the first minutes of the game. Now, this game has your usual Pokémon story. If you have played any previous Pokémon games, you will know what to expect. Fight 8 gyms, defeat an evil team, save the world from destruction, defeat the Pokémon League and become champion of the region.

There are a few twists in the story, but overall it stays very normal for a Pokémon game. While I was playing the game for the first time, I remember quite liking the story. I found the characters quite enjoyable and I enjoyed myself following the quirky cast of characters I met on my journey. While I replayed the game for this review, I still enjoyed the story but I felt that there was more that could have been done with the story. Thankfully, in the following generations, the story gets more and more flesh out.

Something I found really great was the pacing of the story. In the previous Pokémon games, the evil team stays a lot on the background during the story and nearing the finale of the game, appears almost out of nowhere. In this game, you have several encounters with them and a lot of roadblocks on your adventure are caused by them. This made Team Galactic more memorable compared to some other teams. Then again, I might be saying this out of my nostalgia goggles.

Now, does this game have a good story? In my honest opinion, sort off. If you are expecting a story with deep lore like Skyrim, you won’t find it here. The story has a lot of lore but not too in-depth. The story of this game is quite accessible. And that fits the style and theming of this game better than a lore heavy game. It makes the game a lot more accessible for all ages and it stays true to its portable nature.

Unique mechanics galore

pokmon_pearl_image11

If you have played the previous generations, the gameplay will be quite familiar to you. Find and catch Pokémon in the wild to make a team to train and battle other trainers. Now, the usual formula gets enhanced by the Nintendo DS because of the added UI elements of the second screen. The Nintendo DS spoiled me since from this generation the UI gets a lot of improvements.

Some key items like the Item Finder are now a lot easier to use thanks to the PokéTech on the touch screen. There are over 20 apps you can get for the PokéTech. Some are useful inside the game and others can be quite useful outside of the game. I remember that one time, a friend of mine forgot to bring his calculator to school and was allowed to use the calculator in the game for exercises. I used the coin toss app a lot for various situations.

Now, each generation has its own unique special mechanic. The second generation had two regions, the third has secret bases, the fifth has seasons… And this generation has the underground AND the PokéTech. Yes, two unique features. Man, the underground looks like so much fun. Sadly enough, I didn’t have a lot of friends (outside of the internet friends) I could play this mode with. I played this mode twice on the bus and it was quite a lot of fun. In the underground, the secret bases from the 3rd generation return. But there is more, there is a sort of capture the flag mode where you can earn points by raiding the flag of other players their bases. And on top of that, you can put traps in the various hallways. And on top of that, you can mine for various ores and sometimes very useful items. And yes, possible fossils to find several Pokémon. While I wasn’t able to play with the secret bases in the underground, I still spend countless hours just digging for ores and decorating my secret base.

Earlier I talked about the improvements to the UI. Thanks to the touch screen, the battling mechanics and bag management got a lot easier. When you look at the newer generations, it’s clear that these UI improvements work quite well since they got even more fleshed out in those generations. To be honest, I missed the second screen with my menu options and such while I was playing Pokémon Let’s Go.

Actually, there is a third unique mechanic in this game but it isn’t something that game-changing. It’s a nice addition that helps with the atmosphere of this game. After some time, your badges get dirty and a bit rusty. So, you can clean them by rubbing on them on the touch screen to make them sparkle again. This is a nice small addition. And yes, as a child I regularly checked my badges to make sure they were still in sparking condition.

Depending on how skilled you are in optimizing your team, this game can be easy and sometimes quite difficult. I’m the more casual type of player and I have to say that I got frustrated with one of two gym leaders. I disliked the 5th gym a lot since I had to grind quite a bit to beat that gym. And if there is one thing I dislike, that’s grinding.

This adventure will take you roughly 40 hours to complete. But, if you want to fully complete this game and see everything that there is to see, you can spend close to 260 hours in the game. While I haven’t fully completed the game 100%, I think I played this game give or take, 100 hours. Granted, over several save files since I have restarted the game two or three times.

The lakes

pokmon_pearl_image13

Visually, this game looks amazing. Sinnoh still looks great in my opinion. The game is quite colorful and lively.

In terms of the animation, this game looks quite good. I had to get used to the static Pokémon sprites again while battling, but that was a small price to pay.

And the game also nails in it in the audio department. The music for this game is amazing. It’s one of my favorite soundtracks to listen too when I’m in a Pokémon mood and the sound effects really add a lot of flavor to the game.

Running around in the world of Sinnoh is a fun experience. From a port town to the snowy tops of Snowpoint City, this region is one of my favorite regions in the series. Especially because there is so much variation in the region. It’s not themed in one giant theme like in Pokémon Sun and Moon where everything is based on Hawaii or in Pokemon X and Y where everything is themed like France.

So far, I have been praising this game quite a lot. But, are their things I didn’t like about this game. Well, yes. There are a few things I didn’t like about this game.

The first big negative of this game has to do with the fact that the Nintendo Online services have been closed down. Because of this, the online features of this game are inaccessible. Well, apart from the local features then.

Sometimes, I felt that the game was running a bit too slow. Now, I don’t mean that there were any frame drops or lag… I mean that there was a bit too much of the text boxes. Especially when certain weather effects whereinto play.

The best version to play this game is Pokémon Platinium. Apart from fixing some bugs, there is a whole long list of improvements to the game. NintendoEverthing made a very helpful list that can be found right here. And after playing Pokémon Platinium for a bit, I found that a lot of the minor nitpicks I had with the game, were fixed.

And yes, that was almost everything negative I can say about these games… And with that said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article.

Conclusion

Negatives:

-Some rare moments of griding are required to beat the game.

-Nintendo Online being shut down.

-Pokémon Platinium improved the games so much that Pearl and Diamond feel inferior.

Positives:

+ Amazing audiovisual design.

+ Several unique mechanics in this game like the underground and the PokéTech.

+ Fun story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

To be honest, I had a really hard time finding negatives for this game. Maybe it’s possible that I have too many nostalgic thoughts about this game or maybe it’s just that good. In terms of Nintendo DS games, this is one of the best Nintendo DS games I have ever played.

There is a reason why so many players want to see this game remade on the Nintendo Switch. They want to bring this game back to the masses so that a whole new generation can experience the amazing journey through Sinnoh again.

I highly recommend that you give this game a try if you enjoy Pokémon games and/or RPG’s. The main game can be easy for hardcore RPG fans but the post-game and the side quests will give you a lot of challenges.

While this game has a few minor flaws, I find them not hindering my experience at all. Compared to the generations after this generation, this game can feel a bit lacking. For example, you don’t need to hold a button down to run and the menu is always accessible on the touch screen… But, then again, there are moments I really miss the PokéTech and the underground mechanics from this game.

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

Score: 100/100

Review: Adera (PC) ~ Let’s Rescue Grandfather!

AderaSteam store page – Microsoft Store

During a spring cleaning, my mom found her old Windows Surface RT tablet back. She didn’t need it anymore but I saw some use in it. After I reset the tablet to its factory settings, I set the whole thing up. It would be a tablet I used to start writing articles while I was on the go and also to take notes during gameplay. I have an Asus Zenpad 8.0 S for that as well, but this tablet was bigger and had Word built-in. Now, this tablet can also play games. And that’s a second reason why I saw a use for this tablet. And a 3rd reason is that I just enjoy toying around with old hardware and tech. Now, one of the first games I started playing on this tablet was Adera. I recently finished this game and today I want to talk about it. Let’s go and have that adventure in the Adera. 

Let’s rescue Grandfather!

Adera - 1In this adventure hidden object game, you take on the role of Jane. Jane’s grandfather got himself into trouble and sent a distress letter to Jane. When Jane goes to try and find him together with her partner Hawk, their helicopter crashes in the middle of a desert. It’s there that Jane’s adventure starts. Together with the mysterious orb that she received from the package of her grandfather.

The story of this game is decent. The writing is well done and the pacing as well, but if you have played fantasy adventure games, the story won’t bring a lot new to the table. Now, I did still enjoy the story in this game. My biggest complaint is that it could have been so much more. The world and the setting have so much more potential to be explored.

Now, if you decide to play this game, I highly recommend that you play this game with the original voice acting. The English voice acting is quite well done in my opinion. But, most likely because of the region settings of my Microsoft Account, when I play this game on my desktop instead of my Surface, the voice acting is in Dutch. Now, I have nothing against the Dutch voice actors in this game but after I had experienced the English voices, I found the English voice over a lot better.

The following issue with the game is most likely because of the aging Windows RT hardware, but I had moments where the game’s text was sometimes in English and sometimes in Dutch. But, when the menu appeared in Dutch, some text was repeated several times. Take a look at this screenshot for example:

Adera-4.png

At the bottom left, it says “Rate Adera!Rate Adera!Rate Adera!”. And there are a few other sections in the game that have the same issue. So, to avoid visual messes like that, I highly recommend that if you are interested in this game, that you buy it on Steam. You won’t have the issue where the game tries to display in another language and you have the best voice overwork. I even bought the Steam version of this game for this review to do some further research.

But this review will mostly focus on the Windows Store version because that’s the one I played and finished. Now, something I can’t hold against the game was the fact that I played it on aging hardware. I played this game on the Windows Surface RT running Windows 8.1. Due to a bug in one of the updates, the Windows Store doesn’t work, so I had to reset the tablet multiple times. Each time, I had to download each and every episode. Now, the downloading and installing of these episodes took a long time. Maybe because the WiFi card and the hard disk inside the tablet are quite slow.

Thankfully, this game has an autosave in the cloud when you connect this game with your XBOX account. So, even when I had to reset my tablet to factory settings, download and install the game and the episodes all over again, I didn’t lose any progress. This is quite surprising to me and a very nice feature.

Now, I want to talk about something but I’m going to spoil something of the ending. If you are alright with that or if you have finished the game, feel free to highlight the following part. Otherwise, just scroll a bit down so you can skip the spoiler. So, here comes the spoiler: Something that really annoys me is the fact that there is a “season 1”. This implies that the game is going to get a season 2 or even 3. Because of the cliffhanger at the end and multiple unanswered questions, the game feels incomplete. Now, the game is released in 2015 and the social media accounts have gone silent. So, I don’t think we will ever know what happened to grandfather after he got kidnapped… again. Now, the game got a re-release on Steam in 2018, so there is hope that we get a continuation of the story in the future… Who knows.

Windows Surface RT

Adera - 2Now yes, I might have played this game on aging hardware, but I actually enjoyed the fact that I was able to make use of the unique feature of this game. I think this feature is also in the Android and iOS versions of the game but the fact that the game supports touch controls is just amazing. Also, the fact that there are gyro controls for this game is amazing. When I moved the tablet around, the in-game camera moved around as well. It was almost like I was controlling where Jane was looking by physically moving the tablet. The Steam version does not support this. Well, I might support it, but I don’t have a laptop has supported this kind of feature.

Anyways, because this game focuses on touch controls, the controls are a bit awkward when you decide to play this game with a mouse. Because you either swipe or physically move your device to look around in several areas in order to find items and solve puzzles. That’s something that isn’t easily done with a mouse. Now, you can simulate a swipe with the mouse, but it feels different. Yet, I was able to get used to it while playing around with the Steam version after a while.

Now, let’s focus on the gameplay of Adera for a moment. If you have ever played those adventure games with hidden object scenes, you will feel right at home in this game. There are a few types of puzzles in this game. The first type of puzzle is hidden-object puzzles. In these puzzles, you are tasked with finding a handful of items in the picture. There is a punishment when you spam click on the picture. The screen will “break” and you are unable to click for a certain amount of time.

The second type of puzzles has to do with the mysterious orb that Jane received from her grandfather. This orb can do some strange things but in order for it to do that, you have to solve different puzzles. Speaking of the orb puzzles, there was one style of puzzles I truly hated with a passion. There is a puzzle where you have to tap the symbols at the correct time. When you tapped them at the correct time, you were able to progress one space in the puzzle. But, if you tapped them too early or too late, that means one space back for you. Thankfully, you are able to skip these puzzles. This means that I’m unable to complete some achievements, but rather that then being frustrated at a puzzle. Now, why did I hate this puzzle? Because for this puzzle you need to have a certain sense of rhythm and that’s something I don’t really have. The puzzle itself works just fine.

The third type of puzzle in this game is the fact that there are a lot and I really mean, a lot of hidden items in the game. There are close to 180 optional items hidden all over the game.  From masks, pieces of clothing, coins, artifacts, butterflies to special items. There are even more items to collect. You can always see the items you have collected in the collection section of the main menu. These are separated in different sections giving you a hint in which episode you missed an object. And these items are truly hidden. After I had finished the game, I only found a bit over 80% of all the items. And I thought I was very good at finding these objects. To be honest, this is an interesting way to add a little bit of replay value to this really linear game.

The fourth and final type of puzzle is the fact that certain obstacles block your way. In order to progress you will have to find items. Some of these items are hidden in the hidden object puzzles and some can be found by exploring the area. The best way to compare these puzzles is with the gameplay of games like Broken Sword.

The game might be more on the casual side of things, but that doesn’t take away that the game is rather enjoyable. I really liked exploring the areas the game threw me in and finding the items to solve the puzzles. All the while I was looking around for hidden collectibles. I have played a lot of hidden object adventure games and this game is one of the better I have played. The fact that there are additional things to do like the hidden collectibles and the various achievements you can get is refreshing and great fun.

Something I really liked about the Windows Store version is the fact that I bought the collectors edition of this game. In this collectors edition of the game, there are various wallpapers and pieces of concept art. The whole soundtrack of the game is also included for your listing pleasure. In addition to that, there is a very short but quite humorous gag reel. There is also an ad for the eBook variant of the game.

These bonus additions are nowhere to be found in the Steam version. In addition to that, something that I found quite helpful was the fact that I was able to zoom in during the hidden-object puzzles. There is no way to do that in the Steam version.

Now, something that the Steam game does better is the fact that the game is really full screen. This is only an issue when you play this game on a Windows 10 computer or laptop instead of on a Microsoft tablet. If you play the game on a computer, blue bars will fill the top and bottom of the screen like in the screenshot here:

Adera 4.png

This is a shame since there is so much unused space and the game can run in full screen since this is something that the Steam version shows.

So close, yet so far

Adera - 3

It always pains me when I have to write in a review that a game is so close to being a good game. Adera has a ton of amazing elements but it also makes a few mistakes.

Now, this game will take you roughly 7 hours to finish. It’ll take you a few more hours in order for you to complete it. Yes, this game is somewhat short but when you compare it to other games in this genre, this game is actually rather lengthy. It also has replay value and for the price of 10€, you can’t complain in my opinion.

This game isn’t for everybody. When you dislike puzzle games or casual games, I don’t think you will enjoy this game. Which is a darn shame, since you will miss out on the lush environments and the amazing artwork. This game looks amazing. The animation is also pretty well done. You can skip most cutscenes, but you will miss out on the plot and the great animation. Now, the only thing that could have been improved as there was a bit more animation on the characters during gameplay. The characters are quite static outside of cutscenes.

The controls of this game do something unique. Usually, when you click or tap just above the middle of the inventory bar, you go to the previous location. This isn’t the case in this game. Because this game has a back arrow. This has its advantages. For example, now I don’t return to my previous location when I tap a bit too high by accident. But, this arrow works a bit inconsistent. In some cases, you are able to move to that location without the aid of that arrow and in some cases, you can only go to that location with the down arrow. It’s tricky to explain by text, but it will make more sense once you play the game. While I got used to the mechanic after an episode, it was annoying that the down arrow to move backwards wasn’t consistently used for the same thing and in the same way.

In terms of the UI of this game, it took me a while to get used to the Windows Apps interface style. Because I rarely used Windows 8(.1), I wasn’t used to the fact that you had to do certain swiping actions to bring up the menu system. This is something that the Steam version does a lot better. It was also confusing that the settings of the game were somewhat outside of the menu system of the game.

Now, in terms of the UI. Something I really disliked was when I replayed parts of the game on my PC to write this review, I noticed that the swiping doesn’t work in the menus. I had to use my scroll wheel. Another annoying “feature” of this game is that when you go to any menu during gameplay; to for example the collection menu, the back button in the menu system brings you back to the main menu. It would have been so much easier if this back button brought you back to the game to continue your playthrough.

While the game saves automatically and quite frequently, I found the load feature a bit lacking. Now, it works perfectly but when you continue an episode, you don’t know where your save file is at. When you finish an episode, the game saves right before the cutscene that plays as the cliffhanger for the next episode. Now, the thing is, the game uses cloud saves when you sign in with your XBOX account. So, when I clicked continue on the first episode on my PC, the end cut scene of the first episode started playing. It would be lovely if the load feature told you where the game saved. In addition to that, when you click on the “play now” buttons in the main menu with the episodes, the game directly loads your save file. So, if you want to start from the beginning because you think you skipped some collectibles, you need to go to the “episode” section of the main menu and start it from there.

It’s a shame really, the UI could be so much better. There are just bad design decisions. Thankfully, most of them are fixed in the Steam version where you don’t have the Microsoft App UI on top of the game. But, that version misses quite a lot of features of the collector’s edition.

Something I haven’t mentioned or talked about is the music and sound design. The soundtrack of this game is quite well done. The only complaint I have is that some tracks are a bit too short and because they are played quite often, the loop started to annoy me in some puzzles. Yet, the soundtrack is one that I’m going to add to my music library so I can listen to it while I’m writing or relaxing. It’s that good. It’s a relaxing but mysterious soundtrack that’s fully orchestrated. Together with amazing sound effects and sound design, this game really shines in its audiovisual presentation. Now, one nitpick is that I feel that the music for the main menu is a bit too quiet, a bit too mysterious. Sometimes I felt there wasn’t any music in the main menu.

Now, is this game difficult? Not really, this game can be extremely easy and quite challenging depending on the difficulty setting you to pick. There are three settings. Depending on how difficult you make the game, the more supporting features are disabled. On the “EASY” setting, active hidden object or puzzle locations are revealed with sparkles and the hint and skip buttons recharge quite quickly. On the “NORMAL” difficulty setting, the sparkles appear less frequently and the hint and skip buttons recharge slower. And finally, on the highest difficulty, also known as “EXPERT”, no sparkles and the hint and skip buttons are disabled. You can change the difficulty setting at any time while you are playing an episode.

Speaking about the hint button, I really liked the way this game gives you hints. When you click on the hint button the first time, you get a clue to what is the next step you could take. There is an additional button on the hint pop-up and if you click on that button, you get the exact solution you are looking for.

During this review, I have talked about various things that this game does better compared to other hidden object adventure games like for example the length, the back button, and the replay value. But, there is one thing that this game doesn’t have compared to newer games that would have been a great addition in this title. The custom difficulty setting. With these settings, you can adjust which supporting options you want to enable and disable or how long you want to the hint and/or skip buttons to recharge for. But, this might have been too tricky to program with the ability to change the difficulty settings on the fly. The other thing that this game doesn’t have is a map screen. Usually, in these map screens, you can see the locations you have visited and where actions can be done. This would have been helpful with some of the longer episodes.

With that said, I think it’s high time to close off this review. It’s time for the closing thoughts on this game!

Conclusion

Note: While I talked a lot in this review about the Steam version of this game. The conclusion applies to the Windows App Store version of the game that I played on the Windows Surface RT tablet.

The bad: 

  • The UI could use some more polish.
  • The Dutch translation has some text bugs.
  • There was no way to choose the language of the game.

The good:

+ Amazing audiovisual presentation.

+ Replay value in a hidden object game!

+ The collector’s edition has a lot of amazing bonus content.

+ Amazing artwork.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Man, this has been a tricky game to review. I have played parts of the Steam version and the Windows App store version. I’m certain that the versions for Android and iOS have some differences but will most likely play similar to the Windows Surface RT version.

While the Steam version has a better UI, it lacks all the additional neat features of the collector’s edition that can be found on the Microsoft Store. But, the version of the Microsoft Store has a lacking UI.

Now, this game isn’t perfect and isn’t for everybody. But what it does, it does very well. I highly recommend this game to fans of the hidden object genre or fans of the point-and-click genre. This game is quite underrated and should deserve more recognition. It was the first game I started playing on the Windows Surface RT and it was the first game I had beaten. Sometimes I replay a bit of the game in the hope I find the collectibles I missed.

The game gives you the impression that there are going to be more seasons, that the story of Adera will continue. With the game getting a Steam port last year, I have hopes that we will see another season in the (near) future. But, I highly doubt it will happen since there is no mention of seasons in the Steam version. Then again, it could be possible that the second season will start with episode 6 or something.

So, if you want to give this game a chance and you don’t mind a bit of messy menu UI, I highly recommend the Windows Store version. If you want a better menu UI, play the Steam version but know that you will miss out on the collector’s edition content.

Personally, I really enjoyed playing this game and I’m happy that I discovered it. Now, I’m quite curious to see if somebody who reads this article is going to pick up this game. If you do, please let me know in the comments which version you bought and what you thought of it.

And with that said, I 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 be able to welcome you in the next article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

Gamer’s Thoughts: Difficulty in games

downloadToday I want to talk about something extremely objective subjective. Something not a lot of people agrees on. That subject is the difficulty in games. This isn’t unique to video gaming since other entertainment mediums can be difficult to understand, analyze or appreciate. But, the difficulty is one of the most important factors in gaming. In order to write this article, I have asked in various groups what their opinions about game difficulty are. Are games today too easy? Are difficult games fun to play? Are old school games too difficult? I got some extremely interesting replies. Now, if you have your own opinion on this subject, I would love to talk about it in the comment section down below. Of course, keep it civil down there, everybody has a different opinion.

My own views on game difficulty.

Keep in mind that the following thoughts and opinions are mine. It’s quite possible that you think in a different way due to your different experiences in gaming and/or life. Like I said in the introduction of this article, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and opinions on the content of this article and or the subject. With that out of the way, on with the show.

Now, with such a broad subject as game difficulty, it’s quite tricky to give a full opinion. In the introduction alone, I gave a few different angles I could take this article. In addition to that, this subject is extremely subjective. For example, I’m not rhythmic at all. When I talk about the DS, a lot of people talk about games like Elite Beat Agents, a rhythm game. I have to admit that I find this game too difficult.

pokemon goFirst of all, let’s talk about a sentence you often hear us older players say: “Games today are too easy.” Are they really too easy? Well, they became easier in one way but more challenging too. For example, take the Pokémon games. When Game Freak remade the 3rd generation on Nintendo 3DS, one of the biggest complaints was that the game was too easy. And yes, I finished the game without losing 3 battles during the whole playthrough and 2 of these loses were because I wasn’t paying attention during the battle and forgot to heal my Pokémon and the other loss was because I forgot that grass was weak to flying and I most had grass Pokémon in a flying gym. Whoops.

photoNow, why do I think that games can be too easy nowadays? That’s has two reasons. The first reason is that games just got more accessible. Because of the growth of the hobby, a lot more people play video games. So, there need to be ways for every style of player to play video games, even the youngest ones. Thankfully, you have difficulty options that can provide the other players with some additional challenges. Sadly enough, not all games do this. In most games, the difficulty settings have a small explanation of what each level means.

And this brings me to the second reason why games are too easy nowadays and that’s a skill. I have been playing games since I was a young lad. I started playing games give or take 21 years ago. During these years, I have played a TON of games and got a TON of different experiences. That means I have seen quite a lot and the chances of a puzzle stumping me or a fight being too difficult to get slimmer with every game I play.

Is this a bad thing? It depends on what you are looking for in a game. Do you want a game that challenges your strategizing skills or the ability to solve puzzles than the lower difficulty can be a problem? If you are looking for a game to play to pass the time, in that case, the drop in difficulty shouldn’t matter that much.

resident evil 4It’s always a difficult balancing act in how difficult you make your game. Since if a game is too difficult, people will stop playing. A great example for me is Resident Evil 4. There is a section in that game where during an already hectic fight, two chainsaw enemies spawn that kill you instantly when they come to close. There were three times that one of those enemies actually spawned right behind me, giving me no time nor room to turn around and defend myself. These moments I actually rage quitted the game. Another example is Atelier Rorona. The amount of depth in this game is just insane. You have to think about so many things like the freshness of ingredients, how long it takes to collect them and get them home, the amount of MP you have to fight and or craft… It was quite challenging to balance all of these things.

EuropaUniversalisIV_Packshot_editedThat brings me to the question, what makes a game difficult and how difficult should a game be? It speaks for itself that how more layers of gameplay and mechanics you add, the more difficult a game becomes. Take Europa Universalis 4 for example. In this grand strategy game, there are so many mechanics; it’s not even funny anymore. The complexity of a game can turn some people off. I would love to play Europe Universalis 4 with more people but most of my friends don’t understand how the game works or get too scared when they hear how many things they need to think about while playing the game.

In a way, the difficulty of a game can limit your audience. I would love to play a game like Cuphead, but from what I have seen and tried, the game is a bit too much for me. I don’t really like games that depend on memorization or trying over and over again. This makes the game boring and repetitive in my eyes. For me personally, I want to have a great time while I’m playing games. I want some parts to be challenging and test the skills I learned during the game and I want some sections to be easy to play through so I can relax and enjoy the game.

SI_NDS_NewSuperMarioBrosDS_image1600wA game series that nailed difficulty, in my opinion, is the Super Mario World games. In these games, you learn by playing the game. You might have heard this explanation in various other videos or articles but if you haven’t heard it yet, allow me to explain. At the start of the level, you are able to experiment with a new level mechanic in a safe area. One where you can easily avoid the enemies and you don’t have death pits. And the further you go in the level, the more challenging the mechanic or level gimmick becomes. And during the later and last stages of the game, all the challenges are combined into one big final set of levels that test your skills and what you learned through the game. In a way, you can compare it to school. The early levels and sections are the classes while the later levels and finale of the game are the final test/exam.

Now, should games become “NES-hard” again? To be honest, I think we shouldn’t do that. In the current gaming climate, we get a lot of games inspired by the more challenging nature of older games and we also get easier games. That means we have options. Now, we’re all old school games difficult? Were games more challenging in the past? Well, that’s a tricky question to answer.

Tomb Raider LegendFor example, I grew up with the original Tomb Raider games. When I play these games today, I don’t have a lot of trouble with jumping from platform to platform. Of course, due to the limitations of the systems at the time, it wasn’t always clear to which ledge you should jump and how you should make that jump. In more recent games, a better visual presentation helps out with that problem a lot. This “issue” became clear when I did the Tomb Raider project. Some people in that collaboration had never played an old school Tomb Raider game and gave it a try for the first time. And because they were more used to the newer style of the series or the newer style of play in more modern games, they had trouble during the game.

Something I often got during my search for writers in the Tomb Raider project was: “Also the old Tomb Raider games that aged poorly?” or something similar. I completely agree that the original Tomb Raider games aged poorly. The newer Tomb Raider games, and not per se the more modern games, play better because the developers improved their craft and learned a lot from developing the previous entries in the series.

I don’t find all retro-inspired games that difficult. I was able to beat some without much trouble like Blossom Tales or Retro Game Challenge. While I did had some trouble in Shovel Knight because I haven’t played a lot of games similar to that.

When I was researching and brainstorming for this article, I came to the conclusion that there are 4 types of difficulty in my eyes.

The first type is the intended difficulty. This is planned by the developers to challenge you during the game. Think about a Zelda dungeon where you get a new item in a dungeon and you have to learn to use it or remember the places where you were unable to progress and needed to use the item.

The second type is an unintended difficulty. This was an unplanned difficulty due to bugs, randomness (like RNG or random generation) or just plain bad game design. Or it can be because of things like certain mechanics. For example, a lot of people complained when Super Mario 64 DS came out. While it’s a good remake, the controls weren’t loved by various reviews because the original game was designed with a joystick in mind while the DS didn’t have a joystick.

The first two types can be mixed with the other two types.

The third type is a fair difficulty. With this I mean, the game provides you with a challenging and rewarding experience. Like, you finally figured out how to beat that one puzzle or beat that one boss.

The fourth type of difficulty is, you guessed it, unfair difficulty. Now, this can be because of bad and or lazy game design but this can also be a huge spike in difficulty. A great example is Suikoden Tierkreis for me. Overall, the game is somewhat easy. If you don’t skip too many battles and pay attention to what you are doing, the game isn’t all too challenging. I rarely to never saw the game over screen. Until I came to the final boss. This annoying battle gets such a difficulty spike that made me not fully finish the game and actually look up the ending online. Now, while writing this article, I actually restarted playing the game and I’m hell-bent in finally beating the game this time.

The more difficulty of type 2 and 4 you have, the worse it becomes for your game. One time a developer asked me to review an Android game. In this game, you had to feed various foods to some customers. The issue was, all of the dishes were based on Asian dishes and I’m European. I barely know anything about Asian cuisine. The unfair difficulty in this game is that almost nothing was explained in the game about the foods themselves. So, I was unable to figure out which food was what, so it became a guessing game.

Another example of unfair difficulty is more recent. A developer asked me to review a Switch game they just released. The game is a twin-stick shooter and in the shooting tutorial, there were two spawners in the room that spawned so many enemies so quickly, it became overwhelming. You shouldn’t put so many enemies in the first level of your game while the player is still learning the basic mechanics of the game. That’s unfair.

headerDoes a game like Dark Souls have unfair difficulty? Well no, the game is quite balanced in my opinion. There is a lot of risk and reward gameplay, the punishment is just a bit too harsh in my opinion. But the game becomes beatable when you learn the finer details of the game and get used to the inner workings of the game.

The line and difference between the four types are really thin and make it still personal. Speaking of personal, some people talk proudly when they were able to beat a certain game on the highest difficulty. While that is impressive, you shouldn’t look down upon people having trouble on the lower difficulties. While my gaming buddy MiseryLC can beat the AI in Europe Universalis IV on hard, I feel that the normal difficulty provides just enough challenge for me.

I think it would be a great development if all games have difficulty sliders. The more you can adjust the difficulty, the better. Something I really loved in the Etrian Odyssey series is that you can change the difficulty setting when you are in the town without any other punishments. This is great because when I was unable to beat a certain boss and almost stopped playing, I was able to lower the difficulty a bit so I was able to beat the boss and move on. After I had beaten the boss, I set the difficulty back on normal. This is a perfect system since people can choose how easy or hard you want the game to be.

Now, I have said quite a lot about the topic now. To avoid this article becoming a bit too long or having too much rambling, I think it’s time to let some of my friends talk. I want to thank everybody for their input since they helped me quite a lot while putting my thoughts together for this article.

How others think about difficulty.

Now, I asked around on various groups on Discord and Facebook on their opinions on game difficulty. Here is what they have to say. Note, some quotes I translated from Dutch to English. Some quotes had minor edits since sometimes contained an answer to another topic in the conversation or something in those lines.

The following quotes come from a Facebook group where Belgian retro game collectors gather.

Ward: “Some games are pretty challenging due to their difficulty like Slain and Cuphead. But other games hold your hand, but that doesn’t always take away from the fun of the game. It really depends on the game and how enjoyable the story is.”

Hakim: “Sometimes a too difficult game can be really frustrating. And out of this frustration, the game can go on my shelves to be never played again.”

Kenny: “Personally, I think that the player should have a choice how difficult the game should be. Some games I play personally for the story and not for an extreme challenge.”

Mayu: “For me, a game can never be too difficult. I’ll play until the end as long as the difficulty, challenge, story and such are fun. It already happened that I was disappointed when I bought a new game and I finished it without issue. The solution for this is lately, collection or completion rewards. Some of them are really letdowns. In the past, gaming was a very niche hobby. When a game was too difficult, you just had to try and try again. But, now that gaming isn’t a niche hobby anymore, the difficult games don’t sell that well anymore. And with companies trying to make as much profit as possible…”

Koen: “Making a game extremely difficult is no issue for me. As long as all the elements of the game are fun, it doesn’t matter to me. I really enjoy the rewarding feeling of finally being able to beat a game at the highest difficult setting after trying on it for weeks and seeing the real/true ending. But, when the story is garbage and I have to replay the game on a harder difficulty setting, I won’t be spending my time on a new playthrough.”

Niels: “As long as a game stays fair, it’s worth my time. Nowadays, there are a lot of games that are too easy for everybody to play. From endless tutorial sections to special power-ups when you die a lot and sometimes even a skip button, these are just a few things that you find more and more in modern games. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they are optional or are disabled by higher difficulty settings. Something I really want to stress, a game that is too difficult thanks to bad enemy placement, terrible controls or bad decisions is a bad game.”

Xavier: “I prefer easier games. There are a lot of games that are quite enjoyable to play. It doesn’t matter to me if games are shorter, I usually buy them at a lower price after they have been released for a while. It’s better then having to play a game where you have to retry a section 20 times to finish it.”

Dennis: “I usually start a game on normal mode. Depending on my experience, I raise or lower the difficulty. So, this means that I play some games on easy, some on normal and some on the hardest difficulty. I don’t really enjoy games where you respawn a thousand times before you can continue and especially when you have the same issue 10 minutes later in the next section. If I enjoyed the game enough, I might replay it on a higher difficulty setting. Most of the games interest me for somewhere between 10 to 20 hours. But, this is absolutely not the case for me with Final Fantasy games.”

The following opinions are from fellow bloggers or friends in the blogging world.

Aiphafemaie: “A couple thoughts – I think games felt more difficult in the past because you had to rely more on yourself to figure out how to pass levels or quests. Or printing out walkthroughs from GameFaqs.com lmao.  Now when you’re stuck, you can just to YouTube and see how it’s done. I don’t think games were more difficult in the past, but “difficult” is a subjective word.  Today’s games do have varying difficulty modes, in comparison to the past. Before most games could only be played on default.”

TwoTall4uFool: “I think there was a lot of trial and error with games back in the 80’s and 90’s. Even in the 2000’s. Aiphafemaie you bring up a great point about GameFaqs but there are some games out there that I would’ve never beaten if it wasn’t for Game Genie/Gameshark. Today in games you have tutorials and of course there is YouTube. And even with plug and plays such as the SNES Classic you can rewind and try a part again if you fail. And plus suspend you point. So emulating older games have made them easier ….. sort of.”

ReaperInteractive: “I agree with @aiphafemaie . Games in the past had no clear instructions or clear, “Go here to pass to the next level.” Games nowadays are a lot more direct and I feel that developers intentianally make these instructions extremely clear as to make the game as playable and prevent people from giving up midway. A little more on the note. There have been games where the instructions were so unclear that I literally had no clue what to do and ended up giving up. Another reason I feel that games nowadays are a lot easier is because we’ve played the same basic mechanic over and over again as to games in the past, there were hundreds of different mechanics. Most games nowadays can be grouped into a couple dozen genres with the same mechanic and controls. Contrary to this, I feel that games in the past are composed of hundreds of different genres, some completely new to the people hence why I feel that why games in the past are a tad more difficult than those of our age.”

The Well Red Mage: “I think that games can still pretty hard now, some of them, but there are new varieties of games now. There are brutal platformers as a subgenre now that are built on difficulty, but then there are also walking simulators and interactive movies now that eschew difficulty almost entirely. I think some would say that the difficulty of retro games was such that it was unfair, but I think that the lives systems and the memorization of patterns (two very retro-centric ideas of difficulty) are perfectly valid; we maybe just don’t have the toleration for them that we used to. Those games were still demanding something of the player (memory or timing). So I think this is a conversation that benefits from specifics like specific games and specific features in those games that bring difficulty into the equation (memorization, level design, limited options or limited chances to complete a challenge, longer periods without save features, increasing speed, item management, enemy AI… all those things are specific features that games then and now used and use to create difficulty).”

The Badly Backlogged Mage/MrBacklog: “I think the obvious-but-unhelpful answer is “as difficult as they need to be to convey the desired experience”. Dark Souls, the Walking Dead and Mario Party are all different in terms of difficulty because they’re going for different experiences.”

OverThinkerY: “I think there are different ways of adding difficulty – Backlogged makes a good point about those games being difficult in different ways as part of the experience. There’s perhaps the most classic sort of difficulty, which is reacting and executing the right series of inputs quickly enough to proceed, and then there are things more dependent on memory, ingenuity, or sheer emotional fortitude. I think there are more examples these days of different sorts of difficulty other than simply pressing buttons accurately, which might be down to better tech or just natural progression, but it enables different kinds of experiences to be made effective in that way.”

Mail Order Ninja Mage/Daniel Flatt: “Difficulty is the hardest thing to get right in video games. If you push back too hard you lose all but your most dedicated player, if you don’t present any challenge then moderately skilled players become bored. Like everyone said above it is drastically different depending on the game and furthermore the individual playing.

That being said games aren’t necessarily easier than they were before, but they have become better at not wasting our time. Games previously were artificially hard, first because checkpoints and saves weren’t a thing, and then because many NES games are a handful of hours long without constantly starting over. They had to have that difficulty to make the game worth it, can’t have Billy coming to you after an hour and asking for a new game. I dare anyone to play B side levels of Celeste and say games are easier, but the difference is you don’t have to play through the same 30 minutes over and over to finally get through something and die 20 seconds later to start all over.

The best games have difficulty determined by the player, Nintendo excels at this, but one of the best examples is Ori. It has a function where you basically create your own checkpoints or don’t, depending on your preference. It could be brutally hard, but if I get to try again right away for a certain section it wasn’t wasting my time making me play the same section a hundred times.”

Now, as you can read, the opinions are extremely diverse when it comes to difficulty. This brainstorm was extremely interesting to do. I honestly think that I’ll return to this topic in the future. Before I close this article, I want to point you to an article created by Rob “I Played The Game” Covell that he wrote in 2017 about the same subject. “A Difficult Conversation”.

Closing off

Like I said in the previous paragraph, the conversation of how difficult a game could be or if games are too easy nowadays gets quite diverse opinions. While this topic could be discussed for hours and the opinions will go in various directions, I think I’ll close off this article here. I’m quite curious about what everybody thinks. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic at a later date.

If you have written or talked about this subject in the past or know a great resource like another article or video, feel free to send me a message with the link. Maybe I’ll include it in the next article. And with that said, I think I’ll really end off this article. Thank you, everybody, for helping me put this article together. It was a blast. 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: Woodle Tree Deluxe (Switch) ~ Raindrops To The End.

Woodly TreeNintendo microsite

In 2017, the developers behind Suicide Guy contacted me to ask if I would take a look at their game. Last year, they asked me to take a look at the sequel/follow-up of the game called Suicide Guy – Sleeping Deeply. Now, Chubby Pixel sent over a review copy of Woodle Tree Adventures Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch. While the developer provided me with a review copy for this game, you will find my 100% personal opinion in this article. I’m quite excited to see what this game has to offer and how different their other titles are. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

Raindrops To The End

Woodle Tree 1In this game, you play as a walking log. You are tasked by the Great Tree, which looks a lot like the Deku Tree from Ocarina of Time, to bring the water back to the world. Why do you have to bring the water back to the world? Because it’s going through a drought at the moment. After the Great Tree shows you the Fairy Tears you need to collect in order for you to save the world, you get teleported to the hub world. This hub world is the home that the Great Tree for you build and there you find a backpack (it’s called a rugsack in-game) and your weapon, the magical leaf.

And that’s about it in terms of story. I haven’t finished the game yet, but I think there will be a bit more story bits after I finished the last level. Now, I didn’t expect a grand story from this game. Because the stories in the Suicide Guy games were handled in the same way. It’s all about the gameplay in these games.

Before I talk about the gameplay, I want to mention one thing that I didn’t like about the story. In this game, there isn’t a button to skip dialogues. When I started playing this game and I read the first dialogue and I wasn’t able to advance, I thought that my Switch froze. But, you have a wait for a bit too long in order for the game to advance. It sounds like a nitpick, but it would improve the game quite a lot.

With that said, let’s focus our attention on the gameplay. In this game, you go through various levels looking around for these Fairy Tears. There is no tutorial in the first level, but a quick look at the controls by pressing the “+” key on the right joycon explains everything you need to know. The controls are easy to grasp and understand.

The goal in each level is to find the tree hidden Fairy Tears and bring them to the three cups at the end of the level. If you reach the end of the level without all three tears, you won’t be able to finish the level. While the levels are quite linear, to find all three tears, you will have to explore off the main path and look everywhere.

Checkpoint mystery

Woodle-Tree-Adventures-Deluxe-2Whenever you fall off the edge of the level or get hit by an enemy, you respawn at a checkpoint. Now, at first, I didn’t understand how the checkpoint system worked, but after some experimentation, I think I understand it. Let’s say there are 5 checkpoints in a level. When you die past the 4th checkpoint, you respawn at checkpoint 4. If you die again, you respawn at checkpoint 3, die again -> checkpoint 2. So, the punishment of death is respawning at an earlier checkpoint.

In this game, you don’t have hitpoints nor lives. So, if you are hit by an enemy, you are dead. But, you will never get a game over. Speaking about enemies, they die in one hit as well. Some will chase after you, others will stand in your way to make certain platforming sections trickier to complete. The enemies were a small point of frustration in this game for me, since the attack of your character is so slow, I ran into them quite often. Thankfully, you don’t lose your already collected tears whenever you die.

But, there is something that was ever more annoying, and that was the camera. You don’t have full control over the camera in this game. You can zoom in and out in most places. I’m extremely happy about that feature since it made certain platforming sections possible. In other sections, the zooming in or out mechanic didn’t work properly or not at all. Making some sections extremely tricky, especially when you have trouble seeing depth.

A cute cover

Woodle-Tree-Adventures-Deluxe-3This game is a port of the Steam game “Woodle Tree Adventures”. In this version, with getting an additional level, the new camera system and better jumping mechanics.

Speaking about the jumping mechanics, the animation of the jump looks a bit weird. It looks a bit floaty. I think that a few more frames of animation for the jump would give it a more natural feel.

Visually speaking, this game looks very good. The world is very colorful and vibrant. The visual presentation of the game is one of the strongest points of this game. The game even looks stunning in some places. Especially some lighting effects like the sun’s rays peeking through some models, giving a sunset vibe.

Yet, underneath this cute cover, the game feels unfinished. For example, the controls of this game respond quite well but they can be quite slippery sometimes. I lost count how many times I died because my character took one or two additional steps and feel into the abyss.

Also, I felt that there was something missing during my playthrough of this game. There is barely any UI in this game. I missed an on-screen counter for the collected fruits in each level. With these, you can buy various cosmetic items for your character, but it’s tricky to know how much you have already collected. You can see this in one space in the hub world, but the counter isn’t visible at the location you can buy these cosmetics at.

All of this happens in the hub world. And there is another element that I don’t like about this game. The placement of the levels. To start a level, you have to hit the orb with your magic leaf. But these orbs appear randomly in the hub world without any indication of which ones you already finished or which one is new.

Overall, this game is quite easy. The only moment that this game can become difficult is when the controls become slippery or when the camera decides you can’t zoom in or out. But, it didn’t take me long to finish the first few levels of this game.

The music and sound effects are a bit lacking as well. While the music of this game is quite enjoyable, I wish there was a bit more to the soundtrack and a bit more sound effects. I think there are only 5 sound effects in this whole game. And that is a bummer. Speaking about sound effects, I noticed that the dying sound effect sometimes played multiple times when you fall off the edge.

Overall, this is a decent game. But, it’s lacking. The game could use a lot more polish and content. The concept is interesting and fun to play but with slippery controls, boring level design and especially an annoying camera, this game is hindered so much. This game could have been so much better then what’s released right now. With that said, I have a hard time recommending this game. While it has a ton of elements that work and work well, but there are just too many elements that need polishing or updating for me to fully recommend without any hesitation.

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

Publishing: The world of Dfusing Mechanical Keyboards

As the years have progressed, technology has come a long way. It has brought a change in lifestyle and we cannot possibly think of living without technology right now. Computers are a great example of this changing technology. The bulky desktops have given way for more sleeker versions and feature-packed laptops. One of the most used input devices on a computer is the keyboard. It has also changed along with the computers. While laptops have their own integrated keyboards, some people prefer using an external keyboard.

NekoJonez’s personal note: This article is written by DFusing and minor edits by me. I want to thank DFusing for writing this extremely interesting article and the amazing communication. I’m actually in the market myself for a new keyboard and after reading this article, I’m considering a mechanical keyboard.

The tactile satisfaction of the mechanical keyboards is often missing in membrane keyboards. It mimics the feel of writing on an old school typewriter, like in the past. Now, this doesn’t mean that the modern mechanical keyboards are missing features. They are packed with the things that the customer needs for everyday use and even in most cases for gaming as well.

The gaming community is very passionate about the technology that they use. They often customize their computers, and this includes a gaming keyboard that gives them ultimate satisfaction and comfort while playing games. Because of the different types of keys used in mechanical keyboards, they have better sensitivity. Writers buy mechanical keyboards as well because they need their keyboard to type a lot. So, let us take a closer look at one of the companies that creates these mechanical keyboards.

What is Dfusing?

Dfusing is a company that specializes in developing mechanical keyboards especially those that are meant for gaming. They are motivated towards solving the usual struggles that a gamer generally has while using normal keyboards.

Customer service and satisfaction are two things that are quite important for DFusing. Together with the best minds, DFusing has included the best technology in their keyboards that gamers will find interesting and quite useful. They have great options for the budget lovers and for high-end products in their technology.

Dfusing Logo

Why does DFusing make mechanical keyboards?

In most cases, people don’t check which type of keyboard we purchase. They most likely get a normal keyboard, even while they could be interested in buying a mechanical keyboard. Here are a few reasons why a company could start making mechanical keyboards.

  • Mechanical keyboards use specialized keys that aid in doing the job that they want to do. The keys like the Cherry MX Black, Blue, Brown, etc. More information can be found in our latest blog post on our website. All will help you, in some way or the other. There are types of gaming and writing. There are mainly three different models of key types: linear, tactile and clicky. It’s highly advised that a customer should try out the different types and armed with that research buys the keyboard with the keys that suit them best.
  • Mechanical keyboards are far more durable than another type of keyboards. Gamers can use these keyboards for several hours a day and writers can write on them quite easily. The materials that are used in mechanical keyboards are designed to easily withstand years and years of heavy use. Most mechanical keyboards do specify their lifespan when you buy them.
  • Mechanical keyboards, especially those made for the gamers, will often have specific features. For example: anti-slip so they don’t move on your desk. In most cases, they will be heavier so that it stays put while you work on it. Dfusing keyboards do maintain their quality. Other features are backlights for gaming, writing in the dark, special keys which are programmable for the gamers, etc. Customers will often look for these features whenever they are buying a keyboard.
  • The feedback given by the mechanical keyboard is one of the reasons for gamers vouching for them. The click made by the key actually helps the person to type or press the next key without having to wait for it responds. This also increases the precision and speed provided by the keyboard.

These are the main reasons why DFusing makes mechanical keyboards. Along with the above-mentioned reasons, DFusing makes sure that these features are present in the keyboards they are launching in the market.

Mechanical Keyboards by Dfusing

We have already talked about the company and its market for mechanical keyboards. We think that this is the time to talk about the products that they have in the current market. So, here are some the keyboards that you can get from Dfusing:

  1. Backtech is one of the most loved products. Your attention is immediately caught by the great design of the keyboard. Your hands won’t get easily tired due to the ergonomic rest, even when you use the keyboard for a long time. The keyboard keys have a lifespan of 60 million keys which is quite durable. Along with that, the reaction of the keys is super-fast and are comfortable to touch.

Backtech

Another focal point of this Backtech must be its high-quality LED backlight. The bright light will never go dim on you. There are 15 different settings for the backlight. It is a USB wired keyboard that you can attach to your desktop or laptop for easy usage. The Backtech has an affordable price of just $49.99 (€44,25) which is just a steal.

  1. Enterprise is the dream come true for every lover of mechanical keyboards. The best part is the 16.8 million possible settings for the LED backlights and they look astonishingly beautiful. A lot of things can be created with the backlights, anything from a rainbow to a disco. The Enterprise is durable because its upper cover is completely made from metal and not cheap plastic. Like the Backtech, the Enterprise also has a great ergonomic design.

Enterprise.jpg

DFusing has made sure that not only the Enterprise has the highest comfort possible but that it also is extremely useful. The keyboard has the necessary multimedia keys. So, the writers can also use this keyboard to get their job done. The keyboard will cost you $79.99 (€70,81) and it is totally worth it for the quality that you are getting out of it.

  1. Solardream – If you are a person who is into high-end gaming keyboards, then this one is perfect for you. The design is quite unique with the RGB strips on either side of the SolarDream. The backlight has different light modes that let you customize your time with this keyboard. It also has 5 programmable keys which are a must-have for gamers. The programmable keys are on the left side of the board. A lot of people also find a lot of use out of the 12 media and function keys present in this model.

SolarDream.png

The keyboard sports Outemu keys which are known for their quality. They are tactile and comfortable to use. This keyboard got a lot of praise from professionals. A lot of gamers use this keyboard to play their games thanks to the amazing RGB features. The SolarDream is sold for $109,99 (€97,37).

  1. Frostflux – Dfusing really knows the right way to be creative with their keyboards. Frostflux is an example of this due to its unique and comfortable design. It boasts clear design which lets you have a look underneath the keycaps. The blue frosty color of the keyboard along with the RGB backlights looks amazing. With the help of a laser, the optic switches have very fast responses. Because this keyboard doesn’t have a lot of flex, the keyboard is quite sturdy and will last for a long time so the chances of it breaking on you are slim.

Forest Flux.png

The backlights are something that everyone should appreciate and they are customizable! If you are in the market for a good looking and great performing keyboard, the FrostFlux is for you! The FrostFlux can be yours for $89.99 (€79,66).

Competitive companies

An industry wouldn’t be complete without the competition! There are some great and strong brands out there besides DFusing.

Razer

Razer

Their slogan says it all. “For Gamers, By Gamers.” They’ve proven that the gaming industry can be a great and heart-warming community. They bring a lot of gamers together to enjoy their products and content!

Corsair

Corsair

At first sight, people would associate Corsair more with power supplies and computer cases. But Corsair has a pretty strong line of keyboards (and mice) as well. One of their most famous products is the K70 series which makes them a big competitor in the keyboard market.

Logitech

Logitech

Logitech might not always be the brand that gamers think about first but Logitech does make some very good products for a very reasonable price. Logitech isn’t completely focused on gamers alone. They’re what you would call: in between. Offering products for both the gaming scene and for the office/casual scene.

All of these brands have a very respectable reputation. There are different brands in the keyboard market, but the three we mentioned above are the biggest competitors.

Why would you buy from Dfusing?

From the start, DFusing had a clear goal and vision in mind. Everybody at DFusing is a hardcore gamer and with this passion, it was clear what the company wanted to develop and create. So, why would a consumer buy from Dfusing?

While it is not that odd that mechanical keyboards are a tad more expensive than membrane keyboards, a lot of brands have extremely high prices. We mean no critique on them, but we have our own strategy.

We want to give the customer the utmost value for their buck. That’s why we ensure to complete analyses for every product that we put on the market and discuss a fair and honest price for said product. We don’t go overboard, we want to be the go-to place for every type of gamer.

  • Great customer service means a lot to us! When a company grows larger and larger, it becomes quite challenging and sometimes even impossible to provide great customer service to every single customer. We absolutely do not want to be that kind of company. We believe in treating the customer with the utmost respect and support. This translates into a healthy relationship with the industry and our consumers. Basically, we value our customers, and naturally, the customer values us back. And let me tell you, that is worth all the trouble (of keeping the support level at the best quality while the company grows)!
  • The journey does not end when the product arrives at your doorstep. We want to build a community to come back to, and discuss your adventures online! That’s why we’d love to keep interacting with you on any of our social media, blogs and our future forum. Links can be found at the bottom of this article. Basically, we want to show customers that they mean more than just someone who buys from us, we want to greet them into our family. The heart of gaming lies in its community.
  • DFusing values the feedback of the community quite a lot. There is quite a lot that can be learned for the experiences of the customers. Sadly enough, there are a lot of companies that choose to ignore the feedback. But DFusing wants to do actually do something with it. We believe in quality and the people.

In conclusion, we can say that Dfusing is a reliable company when it comes to mechanical gaming keyboards. We have a lot of experience in developing and creating mechanical keyboards. So, thank you for reading our pitch and we hope that you have derived with some helpful information for your next keyboard purchase. We are hope to the world of mechanical keyboards as the demands are rising day by day.

Social media of DFusing

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/dfusingg

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/DfusingInc/

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/groups/dfusing/

instahttps://www.instagram.com/dfusingg/

dfusing https://www.dfusing.com/

 

 

LaterLevels’ QOTM – January 2019 – The Ultimate Game: Themes

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For a couple of years now, LaterLevels is organizing a question of the month. In 2017, you were able to send in a small section to be featured in the article. You were limited to the number of characters you had for a tweet. In 2018, every month a writer got a challenge to write an article centered around a question asked by LaterLevels. This year, LaterLevels is going “to develop” the best and/or ultimate game. In each month, another part of the game will be created. The idea is that other bloggers write up an article with their thoughts and ideas on that section and submit it to the post of that month. At the end of the month, the best is chosen by the already existing development team and will be invited to join the secret Discord to judge the entries in the following months. If you want to read more about the rules in-depth, you can read the post of LaterLevels here. Now that I have explained all that, it’s time for my entry. In January, the setting and theme will be decided without deciding the story and such. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the question in the comment section down below.

The challenge and my background

yoyo_logo_512Now, I don’t want to brag but I have various ideas to make a very interesting game. In the past, I actually created some arcade clones with YoYo Game Maker. I’m not going to republish them since I lost the source files and I want to change so much for them to get republished.

alleyway_boxartBut, here is the thing. When I was developing a game, I always started with the mechanics and gameplay. For example, when I wanted to create a Break-Out clone, I actually started out with recreating the Gameboy game Alleyway. Now, I felt too limited in level design, so I started to look further. Then, I found an asset pack with different blocks, a ball and various other sprites with a sea theme. So, I totally reskinned the game and I made up a story about a submarine stuck in a big magical coral reef trying to find its way out.

warioware-diy-top-625x352Another example is when I wanted to remake those simple flash and phone games that you need to tap a ball or an object to keep it from the ground. When I started to make that game, I got some small ideas for other mini-games with the sprites in that asset pack and I started to create a sort of WarioWare inspired game.

Now, you might have noticed that I always talk about an asset pack. This is a pack where various sprites, sound effects, music, backgrounds… are provided to game developers. In almost all of the games I created, I used asset packs. I can barely draw a decent stick figure let alone design various level elements. Also, when I created those games; I was 12 years old. So, I didn’t know how copyright and licensing work. That’s another reason why I’m not going to republish the games.

Anyways, let’s end this storytime about my history here and let’s get back to answer LaterLevel’s question. The reason why I’m talking about my hobbyist game development past is the fact I mentioned earlier. I mainly focused on an interesting and unique gameplay. The setting and themes would come later. While that is not the best approach, but it was the approach my young teenage mind took. And because LaterLevels didn’t want too many story details, the challenge got even harder.

81i7ndliszl._sx385_I also messed around in RPG Maker. And I always had one or two chapters of the story written before I started to create the world and setting the characters lived in. I had a general idea of the world but when I write, I love to let the readers create the world for themselves instead of possibly boring them with the millionth description of how a fantasy castle town looked like. In addition to that, the fact that I don’t describe a scene gives me the liberty to use the setting to my advantage. That way I can bend the world to the story and my needs. But it makes continuity much more challenging.

So, the ultimate video game. What could be a setting and/or a theme of the game? Well, I have a few suggestions without giving too many plot details. Let’s take a look at that.

Themes and settings

First of all, when you are talking about the best game, I think that the theme should be one of the variety. A power fantasy in another world would be extremely easy and generic. Most RPGs use a silent character you can name yourself or has the most generic dialogue that can be used for each RPG main character. To be honest, this is a generalization. There are exceptions of course.

91fbW6yu4TL.jpgA perfect video game needs to grab you and pull you into the story, world, and setting. When I was brainstorming for ideas I noticed that most of my favorite story-driven games take place in one location. For example, in Corpse Party, you explore one haunted school and the associated buildings. In Another Code: R, you explore the vacation resort where your father works. And as a final example, in the first two Bioshock games, you explore Rapture.

swordartonlineSuddenly, various things started to click in my mind. I got my eureka moment. I got it when I remembered the story of Sword Art Online. In that series, people are trapped in an online VR-game. In order to escape, they have to beat the game. The catch is, when they die in the game, they die in real life. In that series, the game takes place in a huge fantasy open world with various dungeons and quests.

Now, what if we take the idea of Sword Art Online and expand it for the best game, but with a huge twist? First of all, we can decide if we create the game in VR or not later. My suggestion is that the best video game takes place in a sort of fantasy open world with castles and towns that provide a lot of quests and things to do.

no game no ligeThe twist is that everything in the world happens with games. Think of the mechanics of the No Game No Life series, where every dispute is settled with a bet who wins a game of for example chess, rock/paper/scissors, poker or even more extreme examples. Now, it would an interesting idea if this idea is implemented into a real game we can play.

Back to the story of Sword Art Online, in order for those who are trapped to escape they have to beat all bosses in a huge tower. Now, what if each floor in this tower is replaced with a challenge in another genre and that you have to beat different challenges in that genre before you can progress.

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Think about the overall story of Retro Game Challenge. In that game, you get sent back to the past and in order for you to return, you have to beat various challenges in retro games. These challenges range from beating the first three levels of a top-down shooter to performing some unique tricks in a sports game.

So, the setting would be a great fantasy open world with one central tower the players have to beat in order to climb the leader boards. On each floor, another mini-game or challenge is provided. To avoid people getting frustrated at being stuck on one floor, I think it would be wise to give the player two or three options on the floor. For example, a fighting game challenge, an RPG challenge or a rhythm game challenge.

51vk2fckjhlMaybe it’s an interesting idea to also have separate dimensions where players specialize in a certain genre or style of gameplay. Compare it a bit to the main characters in Kingdom Hearts traveling between various Disney stories to solve issues there.

The theme of the game can be either competition or teamwork. Various guilds can possibly form to aid players to easily beat certain genres. On the other hand, I totally see certain players compete with each other to be the best player in a certain genre.

Being one of the best players in a certain genre can give advantages in the game. In terms of balance, each genre should have a “contrast genre”. That way we avoid players getting overpowered because they mastered too many genres. For example, the players who master a fast-paced genre like rhythm games shouldn’t be able to easily level up their stats in a more slower based genre like grand strategy.

Do you see it now? Just trying to find a setting and or a theme for a game is tricky for me. Like I said earlier, I don’t create worlds too often and I leave them as vague as I can so I can bend them to the will of the gameplay and story. As soon as I got a certain idea, I start thinking about how the world actually works and how the world is balanced. And then we get eerily close to game design and how the game plays.

When I cut out all my gameplay & story suggestions, my idea for the ultimate game’s setting and the theme is this. A big open-world game with various challenges like dungeons and (side)quests, possibly with different universes. In the center of it all, is a huge tower that serves as a leader board for the solo and or clans that play the game.

Closing statement

And with that, I think it’s a good idea to end this article here. Otherwise, I might restart giving my ideas and suggestions on how the game will play. Now, if you want to know if my idea has won or not, you should follow OverThinkerY, since, on 31st January 2019, they will reveal the winner on his blog.

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If you want to join in on this challenge, don’t wait. Check out LaterLevels blog for the February challenge.

With that said, I want to thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed 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: Resident Evil 4 (PS2) ~ Leon, Help Me! LEEEEOOONN!

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Wikipedia entry

Not too long ago, I revealed my 10 favorite games I have started playing in 2018. One of these games was Resident Evil 4. Now, I shorty explained why I enjoyed that game so much in that article but I think it’s time to give a more in-depth opinion on the game. I haven’t finished the game yet, I’m closing in on the mid-way point of the game. I think I have seen enough of the game to give my first impressions on the game and to give my honest opinion on the game. So, will this be the game that drags me into survival horror or will this game be the one that turns me off? As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

Ashley & Leon’s “vacation”

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In this game, you take on the role of Leon S. Kennedy. A police officer that was involved with Raccoon City that has been sent to Spain to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter. Very quickly after your arrival, you discover that things aren’t normal and that something went horribly wrong. It’s up to Leon to find and rescue Ashley as quickly as he can.

The writing in this game is excellent. Some story elements are explained in notes you can find in the world and others are explained in cutscenes. The voice acting is amazing, I especially love the voice acting during combat sections since it really helps with building the atmosphere. The only missed opportunity, in my opinion, is that there aren’t a lot of interactions between Ashley and Leon during your exploration. Maybe Bioshock Infinite with Booker and Elisabeth spoiled me too much there.

Most of this game is a sort of escort quest. But, Leon isn’t taking Ashley on a nice vacation to Spain, at all. Remember the start of this section? Leon came to the village to extract Ashley and get her back to the United States of the Americas.

Now, I’ll talk more about gameplay mechanics later but first I want to talk about a flaw with the story of this game. The flaw is that some parts of the story, especially some characters and events aren’t explained too well to newcomers. This game is the first Resident Evil game I’m trying to beat and I had to look up certain things. Now, on the other hand, these unexplained gaps in the story made me even more interested to play the previous Resident Evil games so that everything can fall into place.

Since I haven’t beaten the game, I won’t comment on the writing too much. To be quite honest, I feel that sometimes the story takes a bit of a backseat and is more used as a sort of tool to string different sections together. I even dare to say that you would be able to cut some sections out without it making a (big) impact on the story or the atmosphere. Yes, the notes fill in some of the gaps but since they are optional and can be skipped, the story feels incomplete to me. As if there were sections removed from the final version.

Ashley isn’t Elisabeth

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Now, I knew in advance that this game was going to be an escort mission sort of game. I have played Bioshock Infinite, so I got used to guiding a character around.

Now, there are big differences between Elisabeth and Ashley. First of all, Ashley can be kidnapped. Whenever certain enemies are close to her, she can be picked up and kidnapped. Whenever she is dragged through a door to another section, it’s game over.

There are two other big differences. The first is that Ashley isn’t helpful during your exploration. You can tell her to wait, hide and follow you. She can only hide in certain places, she doesn’t look for them herself. Now, I tested out how good her pathfinding is. Whenever I called for her when she was in hiding and I ran to a corner of the map, she was always able to find me and team up with me.

The second big difference is that Ashley isn’t invincible. If you see the screenshot I placed a bit earlier, you notice that Ashley has a health bar as well. So, you have to be careful that Ashley doesn’t take damage. Since you need to rescue her alive. Whenever you use your healing items, you can choose to heal either yourself or Ashley.

Thankfully, both Elisabeth and Ashley rarely get in your way during combat. Elisabeth goes and looks for items while Ashley ducks so fast when you aim at an enemy behind her, it’s almost impossible to hit her. Also, whenever I threw a grenade in her direction to try and defeat an enemy close to her, she quickly gets out of the way. Thank god, I would have thrown out the disc if that wasn’t the case.

Now, I have been talking about the differences between Ashley and Elisabeth for a while now. But, how does this gameplay? What is the actual gameplay? This game is an adventure-exploration 3D shooter game. I even dare to say that you can compare it to the reboot Tomb Raider games to a certain extent. The big differences are Ashley and that this game focuses more on big bosses and horror than Tomb Raider.

I have to admit that I’m playing this game on the easy difficulty. Because this is one of my first times I’m playing a survival horror game, I wanted to get used to the mechanics before I challenged myself and played through the genre on a harder difficulty. Surprisingly, this game keeps being challenging. I’m always thinking of how I can save the ammo of my most powerful weapons to quickly dispatch groups of enemies.

The biggest thing I dislike during combat is that I can’t see a difference between an enemy that is close to dying and one that is full health. What is even more annoying is that it’s sometimes, and especially with the bosses, hard to read if you are hitting them or not. In one run, I was sure I hit an enemy but the enemy didn’t go down and used her chainsaw to insta-kill me. The red dot at the end of where you are aiming is too small and too little of an indication during hectic combat. Because of this, I’m sure that I have wasted so much ammo fighting bosses.

I think I can summarize it like this: the combat is a bit rough around the edges. While it’s a lot of fun, sometimes I got annoyed with the limitations of the mechanics. On one hand, I can understand where the developers were coming from. This game is a survival horror game after all and you have to fell tense and afraid since it’s a horror game. On the other hand, it doesn’t take away that I would have loved to see a bit more polish on the combat.

Something I’m disappointed a bit by is the puzzles. I feel that most of the puzzles rely a bit too much on the “press the buttons in the right order” cliché. Almost all of the non-combat puzzles have to press switches in a certain sequence. Granted, I’m somewhere in the middle of the game so, it’s quite possible that the rest of the game will have a bit more unique puzzles.

It has aged

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Because I’m a retro gamer, I don’t mind it when games look dated. If you wondered why I didn’t play the HD version for this article, I can easily explain that by saying that I was able to pick up a physical copy of the original and that interests me more as a collector.

Now, the game looks fine on PS2. There is a lot of detail in the atmosphere of the game and the monster design is delicious grotesque. I especially love it when characters transform mid-battle because then I have to think quickly and change my strategy accordingly.

But alas, the fact that this game is now almost 15 years old is starting to show. In certain sections, I feel that there isn’t enough detail. I also had the impression that in certain sections, the textures on the models were a bit too flat making certain objects like a bed in the castle look like it would belong in a PS1 Tomb Raider game. I haven’t played the HD version of the game, but from what I have seen, all the complaints I have about the visuals… well, let’s just say that the HD version looks a LOT better than the PS2 version. I even checked some comparison videos between the Gamecube, Wii and this version of the game and I have to say, that the versions on the Nintendo platforms look a lot better.

Now, I’m not saying that this game looks ugly. Remember that I said that this game looks fine? Well, I really stand by that. I love all the detail they put in the world and the animations in this game are amazing. I especially love how destructible the world is. When a huge boss throws a tree to a shack you are standing in, the tree doesn’t break on the shack because video games, the tree actually breaks the shack because of realism.

The only “negative” I can say in terms of the animations is that certain death scenes are a bit too scripted. What I mean is for example, when you kill an enemy with a headshot, it doesn’t go down right away. It nearly always takes a few steps forward before collapsing. This isn’t the only example of that, but it stands out. But, after a while, I got used to it and it didn’t bother me that much.

Now, besides puzzles and combat; there is one other part of the gameplay I haven’t mentioned. And that are the quick-time events. In certain sections, you have too much a button as quick as you can to survive. These sections were the most annoying sections of the game in my opinion. Thankfully, they are short. So, they are over without too much hassle.

This game doesn’t have an autosave. You can save at certain save points scattered around. You can save an infinite amount of times as long as you are at the typewriter. Thankfully, when you get a game over, you don’t have to restart from your last save point. You start from the section you died at. For example, when you died during a quick time event with a boss and die, you respawn at the start of that quick-time event. This is a great feature since whenever I died, I learned something new and I got a new idea on how to possibly defeat the boss.

Besides strategy, there is something else that helps with defeating bosses and that are good controls. This game has that. The only things I struggle a bit with are turning while using the knife or aiming with a weapon. Now, turning with a knife isn’t too much of an issue. I stop pushing the knife button and press it again when I have done my turn.

The aiming of weapons is a different story. This game is one of the first games I played on a console that involves a lot of shooting. I’m quite used to being able to easily shoot using a mouse of the Wii Remote. I had to get used to aiming with a joystick. To my surprise, I quickly got used to it. When I look at the stats at the end of each level, I notice that I’m improving quite a lot in my accuracy.

To my surprise, I haven’t talked about the music and sound design of this game and it’s almost the end of the article. The soundtrack of this game is one that helps build the atmosphere quite well. Personally, I wouldn’t listen to most of the tracks outside of the game, but I enjoy the soundtrack quite a lot during gameplay.

The sound design of this game gets a big thumbs up from me. The game sound just right, from the sound of the guns to enemies transforming. It all sounds like you would imagine it sounding in real life.

Well, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I know that I haven’t talked about everything but I’ll leave those things for my review if I ever write one on this game. So, I think it’s time to wrap up this article.

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.