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Review: Uncharted – The Lost Legacy (PS4) ~ Where is Lara, Fraizer?

Wikipedia entry

After I have finished most of the Tomb Raider games, I wanted to play more adventure games like it. The only adventure games I knew that were on the market was the Uncharted series. One problem, I don’t own a PS4. But, my girlfriend NotThatAlice has a PS4 and kindly lend me her PS4 to play one of the Uncharted games. Now, how do these games play for a big Tomb Raider fan? Did I compare these games to Tomb Raider or did it manage to stand out as it’s own thing. Let’s take a look at the final game in the series, Uncharted – The Lost Legacy. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of the article and/or the game in the comment section down below. 

Where is Lara, Fraizer?

In this game, you play as Chloe Fraizer. You are hired for a job finding something that your father was after. You meet up with Nadine, where you find a disc that is in Asav’s possession, the bad guy of this game. After you are able to steal it, you go on a wild adventure finding a special artifact.

Storywise, this game reminded me a lot of the first Tomb Raider game. the one were Lara’s bonds with her friends just get formed. But, the interaction of Chloe and Nadine reminded me a lot of Bioshock Infinite as well. Especially between Elisabeth and Booker. But explaining that would get me into spoiler territory.

Maybe it’s my bias talking here, but I enjoyed the story in the Tomb Raider games a bit more than the story in this game. It’s also possible that I watched a bit too many Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider-style movies to easily pick up on the various tropes used in these kind of stories. The story of this game does nothing really new, nothing to stand out in the competition.

With that said, I don’t mean that the story of this game is bad or mediocre. Far from that. The story, the pacing and the writing is quite well done. I especially liked the quite human interaction between the main characters. Personally, I felt that the main bad guy Asav was underwritten. With that I mean that most of his personality is explained through dialogue from other people. This is a big missed oppertunity since the voice actor really nails his role.

Now, speaking about the voice acting, I have both heard the Dutch and English voice acting. Why Dutch? Because that’s my native language and modern gaming consoles always set language and voice acting to Dutch automatically when it’s available because I live in Belgium. The voice work in both languages is amazing. I enjoyed the Asav in the English version more than in the Dutch version but I enjoyed Chloe a bit more in the Dutch version.

Shoot those enemies

In the gameplay department, I felt that this game was a mixture between Tomb Raider and Bioshock. The puzzle and platforming felt like a real Tomb Raider game, but the combat felt like a mix between Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider.

Let’s talk about the combat first. You can obtain weapons and ammo from defeated enemies or by hacking crates. The way you hack into crates is extremely simple. You have to turn the left joystick until you feel the controller vibrate. At that point you need to find the correct spot, where the lock icon turns green and hold it there. This is one of the easiest lock picking mini games I have ever played.

During most of the combat, you get the aid of Nadine who takes out enemies on her own. She also gives remarks on your shooting, especially when you helped her or not. So, compare her to Elisabeth but then without searching for supplies.

At first, I was quite afraid of the combat. Personally, I thought that shooters wouldn’t work on consoles that well. I’m so used to aiming with the mouse, I thought that controllers wouldn’t be able to live up to that experience. But, this game pleasantly surprised me. While the shooting is assisted with some automatic lock on system, the combat is still enjoyable. It didn’t take long before I got used to aiming with the controller and I was breezing through the combat. My girlfriend started this game on the easiest difficulty level. I increased the difficulty level to have some more challenge.

Something that did disappoint me were the puzzles in this game. Sometimes when I played a Tomb Raider game, I really needed to think were to jump next and look around in the room. Perhaps, I’m getting quite efficient in playing these games but I felt that the puzzles were extremely lacking in this game. There were some creative puzzles and really enjoyable puzzles but I didn’t feel challenged enough by the puzzles. I felt that there could be so much more opportunities in this game for better puzzles.

I had the same feeling with big parts of the platforming. I was playing most of this game on auto-pilot. I still enjoyed myself but I didn’t feel the adrenaline rush I feel when I play a Tomb Raider game. So, yes, I’m stating that the recent Tomb Raider games have better gameplay than Uncharted The Lost Legacy. But, does that make this game bad? Well, no. Not in the slightest.

This game was quite enjoyable from start to finish. The pacing was fantastic. There wasn’t too much combat nor was there too much down time. Something I really loved in this game were the bonus features you could unlock with the treasures. In the Tomb Raider games, the treasures give you a bit more backstory of the location Lara is at. In this game, you get points that you can spend on costumes for the characters, good ol’ cheats, filters, gameplay modifiers and special weapons. Now, this adds a ton of replay value to the game. Now that I have finished the game, I want to replay the whole game with filters and game play modifiers.

And snap!

Now, you have most likely already noticed it from the screenshots that this game looks amazing. The visual presentation of this game is outstanding. I really felt home as a Tomb Raider player in this game.

Something I also really liked in this game were the little touches on the characters. For example, whenever you fell into mud, you get mud on your clothes, but that gets washed away as soon as you walk through some water. Or the characters shaking their hands dry whenever they exit the water. These are amazing touches.

Together with amazing music and sound design, the audiovisual presentation is one of the strongest points of this game. And on top of that, the filters you can use can make this game even more funny to play through.

Just like in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you also have a photo mode where you can easily snap screenshots to share online or use in an article. Now, this is a fun bonus feature and one that I might use a bit more with the unlocked special filters.

So, during this game you visit various locations. From deserts to jungles, this game has it all. I already raved about the outstanding visual presentation with rich detail, great lighting and amazing set pieces. But, if the game has control issues or has an unstable frame rate, than you are unable to enjoy that.

During my playthrough, I noticed some minor slowdowns. Only once or twice during heavy combat. But, in most cases the game ran perfectly and stable.

The controls reacted perfectly. It didn’t take long for me to adjust to the PS4 controller, after playing so much games with the XBOX 360 controller on my PC. It didn’t take long before the controller became second nature to me. Now, one thing I didn’t like was the mechanic to switch weapons. For that you have to use the arrow keys. I felt that the touch pad on the PS4 controller could have been a better choice for this.

Now, there was one thing I really disliked and that was something in the final level. That final level kept dragging on and on. I thought it would never end. Something I didn’t like either were the fist-to-fist combat sections with Asav. I felt that the game was a bit unresponsive at times and I barely knew what I should do.

The biggest let down for me is the fact that this game was only 8 hours long. I was able to finish this game in one weekend. Now, I haven’t unlocked all the bonus items nor have I collected all the trophies. These also help with the replay value of this game. That’s something that somewhat makes up for the short game length.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article. What did I think in summary of this game? Let’s find out! Now, I did leave some things out about the gameplay and story on purpose. I wanted to leave those things as a nice surprise if you are interested in playing this game.

Summary

The bad:

-The fist fights.

-The puzzles should have been more challenging.

-The length.

The good:

+ Amazing audio visual presentation.

+ A ton of replay value.

+ Great controls.

+ …

Final thoughts:

You might have noticed it while reading this review, I have compared this game quite a lot to the Tomb Raider series. While I was playing this game, I did get a lot of Tomb Raider vibes. So, when you enjoy the latest Tomb Raider games, I would highly recommend this game. You will enjoy it quite a lot.

While I think that the Tomb Raider games are the better games, I wouldn’t say that this Uncharted game is a bad game. Maybe I’m a bit biased… Now, if you love adventure games and exploring huge area’s to try and solve puzzles, you really should give this game a go.

I’m also quite thankful to my girlfriend for lending me her PS4 and a copy of this game. I’m so happy that I was able to enjoy this game. Because I enjoyed this game so much, I’m going to give the other Uncharted games a chance in the near future.

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

Score: 80/100

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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. In 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 plummer.

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 colour 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 me 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 oldschool 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 🙂

First Impression: Rise of Nations: Extended Edition (PC) ~ Apes With Tanks

21462-rise-of-nations-windows-front-cover.jpgOfficial website

Since my childhood I have been playing a lot of RTS games. From Rise & Fall Civilizations At War to Age Of Empires, I have played a lot of them. And I have to admit, I’m not great at them. Whenever I would play online against other players, I get easily defeated. Yet, I enjoyed my time with these games quite a lot. I love to play skirmishes or various matches against the computer. Now, one of the favorite RTS games is Rise of Nations. And that’s the game we are going to take a look at today. A game where you take your civilization from give or take the stone age to the modern times of today. So, let’s not wait longer and let’s dive right into my first impressions of this game. The reason the first impression is simply because I never finished the campaigns, so yeah. I haven’t seen all the content of the game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Apes with tanks

Rise of Nations has been developed by Big Game Studios, the studio that also worked on the second expansion of Age of Empires III. While this game has a “Conquer the world” campaign mode where you play as for example Napoleon conquering Europe, I haven’t played a lot of that mode. And that has a simple explanation, I already talked about in the introduction of this article. Now, for this article I have played parts of the first campaign of Alexander The Great.

Now, for this article I have played the extended edition of the game that is on Steam at the moment. The core gameplay of this game is extremely similar to games like Age of Mythology and Age Of Empires. If you have played a RTS game in the past, you will feel right at home in this game.

Some mechanics do work differently in this game. First of all, the way to claim land. When you start the game, a certain part of the map is colored in your color. You can expand this area by building more cities or defensive buildings. You are unable to build any other buildings outside of that area. It’s quite important that you plan out your city structure well, since it’s a factor in how much wealth you will earn from your trade route or the ability to build even better wood cutting or mining camps.

To increase the population limit or the efficiency of certain buildings, you will need to upgrade at the library. There are 4 trees you can update. The military level which allows you to create even better military units, the science level to have even better buffs to your economic output and military, the economics level to have your resource gathering be even more efficient and stockpile better and the civic level which allows you to build even more units and cities. On top of that, you have to worry about advancing through the ages. You go from the early stone age to the middle ages to finish in the modern ages.

The way you gather resources in this game is also quite different. In this game you don’t have to worry about re-seeding farms or finding now ore veins for your villagers. All the resources are infinite. Now, there are certain restrictions. You can only build up to 5 farms per city. The placement of the building is also quite important. For example, if you place a woodcutter camp in the middle of a forest, more villagers will be able to cut wood for you. If you place it at the edge, less villagers will be able to cut wood for you.

Now, with all of this, you need to keep in mind that if you enter enemy territory, your units automatically get attrition. So, if one of your camps or buildings falls into enemy territory, you will loose slots or loose that building entirely.

Another mechanic in this game are the merchants. Spread over the whole map are certain bonus items. Sometimes they can be presents like the relics you can find in Age of Empires III but without the guardians. And sometimes they can be rare resources that can give certain buffs. On this Wiki page, you have a list of all the different buffs you can get.

One of the mechanics I really love and miss in a lot of other RTS games is the automatic exploring. Seriously, I can let any unit automatically explore the map without me having to worry about it or me always giving it a path. The times I forgot to explore the map in other RTS games… Man, I’m unable to count that anymore.

As you can see, there are many layers on top of the gameplay. The game is very complex and expansive. And I haven’t talked about how you can conquer and take over cities, set the unit production to loop, the fact you can take out your enemies in many different ways, the ability to rename your cities, the unique wonders and their bonuses… The features that set this game apart from other RTS games are just amazing and make for a very unique experience.

Visual fluff

This game can be very challenging. Depending on the difficulty of the AI, this game can be quite easy or quite difficult. While I’m able to beat the computer on Normal, I always have trouble when the computer is on hard mode. Yet, the issue I have with this game is that the normal mode provides just a bit too little challenge for me and the hard mode provides a bit too much challenge for me. Whoops.

Something I really like about this game is the fact that the visuals change when you change through the ages. You see the building style change when you advance through the ages. And not only that, the sound design changes as well. For example, when you get to the industrial ages, you start to hear chainsaws in the lumber camps instead of saws.

Up close, the visuals can look a bit dated. But, that’s completely normal. Since near the end of the game, there are so many units on the screen, I’m glad that they aren’t too detailed. The ending of a game can be so extremely hectic, I can barely keep track of what’s going on. I remember a multiplayer session with my best friend. In the end of that session we neglected our economy and idle villagers because the warfare required most of our attention. At the end of a match, you are able to make 4 big upgrades. One of them is instant creation of units. With this upgrade, the warfare gets so crazy, you have to focus on it.

Some elements of the UI in this game can be expanded and collapsed. For example, when you expand the resource menu, you have quick access to the market where you can trade resources. You don’t need to click on a market to do that. You can also see if there are open spots for mining, farming, wood cutting… And when these get in your way, one simple button click and they are hidden.

Not only the visual presentation and sound design changes through the ages, the animation does as well. When you reach the industrial ages, the miners you jackhammers instead of pickaxes to mine.

The sound design is amazing, it really captures the enjoyable chaos that happens on screen perfectly well. On top of that, the sound effects for male and female units are different. Yes, when a female unit dies, you hear a woman scream. And guess what, you hear a male scream when a male unit dies. This attention to detail is just amazing.

Couple this sound design and amazing visual design with an amazing orchestral soundtrack and you have an amazing visual presentation. In the original version, I had issues with the soundtrack. It never played during gameplay. While playing the Extended Edition, I haven’t encountered that issue once.

Perfection?

Now, is this game perfect? No, there are some things I would change in this game. One complaint I have is that there aren’t too many differences between the nations you can choose to play as.

Due to the various amounts of game mechanics, this game can be extremely overwhelming. If you aren’t into RTS games, just don’t play this game as your first RTS game. This game isn’t easy to get into because the various amount of layers upon layers of complexity in this game.

Due to the length of some rounds, I honestly got a bit bored at the end. This game is a lot of fun to play but near the end, I found that the game became a bit too repetitive to my liking.

Also, compared the to original game and the extended edition, there hasn’t been a lot of additions. Thankfully, the community picks up the slack from the developers in the Steam Workshop.

Some achievements are rather grindy in nature. I have close to 60 hours of playtime in this game and I’m not even halfway to the achievement of killing 50K units. Yes, I have killed 8K units during my 60 hour playthrough.

And to be honest, that are all the negatives I can talk about. Maybe I discover a few more negatives when I’m trying out the campaign mode again soon, but I highly doubt that. This game is quite a lot of fun if you are into RTS games. Once this game has a hook on you, it barely lets go. This game is one of my favorite RTS games and I’m so glad that it’s available on Steam. And after writing this review (well, first impression) I can’t wait to boot the game back up again and start up a new round.

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

Game Quicky: The Pepper Prince 1 – The Seasoning – Episode 2: The Sadness (PC) ~ Let The Rhyme Continue

logoSteam Store page

Back in March, I took a look at the ASCII adventure game called the Pepper Prince Seasoning 1 Episode 1. In that game, a lot of rhyme is used to tell the story. Recently, the second episode of that game got released. I wanted to write an article and release it right on the day of the release of the second episode, but a lot of real life things came in between. For full disclosure, I got a press key for the second episode of the game and like with the first episode, the developers want that I write my 100% honest opinion. So, that’s what you will get in this review. In any case, let’s dive right into the second episode that continues right where the first episode left off. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

The good

pepper prince episode 2Now, the second episode will automatically unlock when you finish the first episode. The second episode is called: “The Sadness.” It’s a very fitting title for the episode if you know how the first episode ended. When the episode starts, you get a small and quick reminder on what went down in the first episode. This is quite handy, since it’s close to two months ago that I played the first one.

I’m going to be careful talking about the story of the second episode so that I don’t spoil anything about the first episode. In this episode, a few questions are answered that rose up in the first episode, but a bigger mystery is unfolding. Especially with the wording of certain characters, you get the impression there are hiding something.

The gameplay is quite similar compared to the first episode. Yet, in this episode, a new mechanic is added. Combining items. This mechanic adds some depth to the game and makes the game a bit more difficult. The first episode was quite easy in my opinion and this mechanic adds some challenge. Now, the solution for the puzzles can be already in your inventory.

As in the first episode, there are several puzzles. But unlike the first episode, the puzzles are quite harder in this episode. There is more challenge in the second episode. To be honest, I got stuck at a certain point, but my girlfriend actually found the solution quite easily. If you are stuck, think outside of the box or just talk to the various NPC’s in the town, they might also have useful information.

There are also a few new achievements in this second episode. I still love the fact that there is an achievement that encourages speedrunning the game. Since this game doesn’t have a lot of replay value, this achievement still adds a bit of that.

The visuals of this episode are as pleasingly retro as the first episode. In addition to that, the colors of the objects can distinguished easily so people who are colorblind won’t have issues with that. And if the contrast between the colors isn’t large enough, the mouse cursor even changes when you can interact with an object.  The fact that some parts of the episode or slightly animated to for example simulate the waves of the sea hitting the beach, adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game.

The bad

ViewThere is one thing that I really disliked about the inventory system. It didn’t reset. So, all the items that you had at the first episode are still there. In most modern adventure games, the items you don’t need anymore in the next section of the game are taken out of your inventory. If this happened in this episode as well, it would have made it a bit easier to manage the inventory. Then again, there are one or two puzzles where you need those old items… In any case, I think that this could have been handled better.

While the combine mechanic breaths some fresh air into the gameplay, I don’t like the mess it makes of my inventory. I think it would have been better if the inventory is and stays alphabetized or something in that nature.

The graphics may be charmingly retro, the text can be uneasy on the eyes for some people. For myself, it isn’t too big of a problem, but my girlfriend complained after a while that the text became hard to read.

My girlfriend noticed something I didn’t notice in the previous episode. It’s a minor thing but it can still take you out of the experience. The fact that you use the option “ASK ABOUT…” to milk a cow is a bit awkward don’t you think?

While the puzzles in the second episode where a lot more challenging, one or two puzzles in the second episode were pretty frustrating. Some hints were a bit too vague for my liking. Especially since sometimes one NPC can give the correct clue while the others always give the same reply. I got stuck three times during the game and didn’t know what to do or what could be the possible answer. Now, eventually I was able to get past those puzzles, but I felt the first episode flowed a bit better… yet, on the other hand, the first episode was a bit too easy.

The conclusion

Overall, the second episode is an excellent continuation of the first episode. With the newly added mechanics and the improved puzzles, this game became a bit more fun to play. But, the game could use some minor polish like a better inventory listing and a minor bit of polishing of the script.

I really liked the additional details in the visual department and the music is still quite enjoyable to listen too. I think that if you enjoyed the first episode of this game, you will enjoy the second episode as well. Now, if you are stuck somewhere, feel free to leave a comment, I’m willing to help.

For now, I won’t give this game a score just yet, I’ll do that when I have finished all the episodes of this game. But for now, it’s looking quite good. And I’m looking forward to the 3rd episode.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about the second episode for now. 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: Suicide Guy gets updated AND a bundle on PS4!

ChubbyPïxel is writing to you to let you know that they are celebrating the 2 years release and the 40.000 copies sold for their latest game “Suicide Guy” on Steam with a new Update 1.60 and a 60% Sale!

Thanks to the support of the gamers, Chubby Pixel is able to continue the development with more content in the near future for the game.

https://store.steampowered.com/app/303610/Suicide_Guy/

The Update includes:

– Improved physics interactions with the items
– Better and more refined graphics
– Higher FPS and faster loading times
– Bugs and Glitches fixes

But wait… there is more news!

ChubbyPixel is also proud to announce that to celebrate he success of our 2 PS4 games Suicide Guy” and “Suicide Guy: Sleepin’ Deeply”, today Chubby Pixel releases a bundle of the 2 games!

https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP2659-CUSA11105_00-SUICIDEGUYBUNDLE

The games in bundle contains a total of 34 challenging levels for 6+ hours of gameplay!

Review: Captain Disaster in: Death Has A Million Stomping Boots (PC) ~ In Outer space We Click

captain disaster death has a millionOfficial Itch.io page

Besides visual novels, one of my favorite genres is the adventure & point-and-click genre. Games like Broken Sword, Another Code R, Time Hollow and Adera to name just a few are amazing games. When I got invited to take a look at an indie point-and-click game, I didn’t hesitate twice. The game is a labor of love created by two developers, which makes it even more impressive. While I got a review copy of this game, but the developers wanted that I give my 100% honest opinion. And that’s this article, my 100% honest opinion. In any case, the captain needs us. Since he is going on another wacky adventure. And per usual, feel free to leave a comment about the content of this article and/or this game in the comment section down below.

 In outer space, we click.

Captian Disaster 3As I already mentioned, this game is an adventure point-and-click game. The game is similar to games like Escape From Monkey Island or Broken Sword were the focus is less on the story but more on solving the puzzles in your way to progress the story.

In this game, you take on the role of the quirky Captain Disaster. He is tasked with delivering a package from one planet to another. Now, what the Captain doesn’t know is that the package is actually quite dangerous and has the potential to bring the whole galaxy in a lot of trouble.

It’s quite obvious that this game drew a lot of inspiration from the old school LucasArts and Sierra games. The humor is very similar to a game from Monkey Island and some parts even reminded me of Revolution Software’s Broken Sword series.

The story of this game is one where you don’t need to take it too seriously. While there is a lot of sci-fi in this game, the game doesn’t go overboard with exposition dumps or trying to explain every single detail or mechanic in the world. It’s a breath of fresh air to not have to learn a ton of new terms to be able to understand the game and/or the world.

Now, I know that this game didn’t had a huge development budget. It’s even referenced in the game itself. But I feel that the voice acting could have been better. The voice acting is not bad nor is it good. There are a lot of great moments in the voice acting. For example, the alien language and sounds are consistent and sound like an actual language. But, the voice acting makes in my opinion a fatal flaw.

Besides playing games and writing articles for this blog, one of my main hobbies Is acting in stage plays in a folk theatre group. One thing I learned is how to put intonation in your voice. When I listened to the voice acting again as if I was watching a stage play, I noticed with the voice acting sounded off to me. Some parts of the voice acting is too monotone. Now, the actual voices and accents of the voice work is well done but I felt the voice actors could have put a lot more intonation in their voice work. Especially when a whole dialogue is spoken at the some tone for minutes, then a bit more intonation would have been welcome.

Compare it to a teacher that’s explaining a subject in class. A good teacher puts intonation in their voice to try and get the attention of the students. When a teacher constantly speaks in the same tone, the students will get bored or worse, fall asleep.

Also, in some area’s… some dialogues weren’t audio mixed too well. I had a few spots were some voice over was louder then all the other voice overs.

Now, if you don’t like the voice acting, you can turn that off in the options menu. You can choose between either subtitles, voice over or both. I played throughout the whole game with both. I only noticed in the introduction of the game that two lines of voice over didn’t have a subtitle. Right when the lights go out.

In this game you explore various locations like a rubbish dump, a robot bar and your own space ship. The pacing of this game is rather well done. Except, one minor thing bugged me. The lengths of the acts are a bit off. The second act was extremely short. One you knew what to do, you were able to blaze through it. While the first and third act took me a bit longer.

Now, in outer space we click. And we don’t only click, we find a lot of references. There are a lot of references to franchises like Futurama, Star Wars, Jaws and Space Odyssey to just name a few of them. To be honest, there are a bit too much references for my taste. But, it’s something personal since I’m not that familiar with all the source material it’s referencing. I have played other games with a lot of references like The Legend of Zelda – Spirit Tracks that had a lot of references to previous games in the series and I quite enjoyed that. So yeah, I wasn’t the right crowd for all the references but I’m sure that fans of sci-fi will get a kick out of them.

Look, I’m an artist!

Captian Disaster 2You might have noticed it from the screenshots but the visual presentation gives off a dated impression. And this is on purpose. The visual presentation is a throwback to the older point-and-click games like Space Quest and King’s Quest. In my opinion, the visual presentation has a certain retro charm to it. It really adds to the atmosphere and charm that the developers wanted with their game. It really fits the game as a glove. Now, the trade off for that is that this art style will turn off some players. It’s a shame really.

The animations as well are pretty basic. But, this isn’t a bad thing. It still adds to the charm. I really like it when games that have a retro inspired art style don’t use animations that wouldn’t be possible in that area. So, great job on that!

There are a few minor visual things that could have been improved. For example, the arrows to the sides don’t always change when there is more in your inventory then what’s able to be displayed. Another example is that the “BACK” button in the pause menu, the “K” looks a bit too much like an “H”. And a final example, the “L” in the title cards of the acts miss the top line of the texture which make them stand out a bit too much. Now, all in all, these are minor things. These don’t hinder the experience of the game too much in my opinion.

Yet, there is one part of the visual presentation that could have been improved. At the start of the second act, I got stuck. I didn’t realize you were able to go the left to another area. It would be quite helpful if either the arrow point changed or if there was something visual to show that there was a door. There are a few area’s that have this issue. In the Robot Bar for example, I didn’t know you had another room to the right you could go right away too. Since the area looks like it’s roped off. Yet, sometimes when I go to the edge of the screen, the game tells me that I can go to another area.

Another minor nitpick is that when you click on an item and you click on the menu, the item will still be in use. But, this only happened to me twice during the whole playthrough.

ZB, Come in! We have a puzzle here!

Captian Disaster 1In this game, you will get a lot of crazy things in your inventory. If you ever get stuck, the method of trying everything on anything always works. Some puzzles were quite annoying to solve. For example, there is a puzzle where you need to place 5 things on a motherboard, but when you click on a place where the components won’t go, you will need to reselect them.

All in all, this game isn’t too difficult and not too long. This game took me around 4 – 5 hours to complete. I was able to fully complete this game without touching my keyboard apart from giving a name to my save files. Now, this game does have an autosave but I saves on some weird locations. For example, it saves right near the end of the first chapter but it doesn’t save automatically at the start of the second chapter. So, do yourself a favor and save manually.

The controls for this game are quite simple. You click with the left mouse button to interact with the world. You can use the right mouse click to inspect an item. You will need to inspect a lot of things for clues on what you need to do in order for you to progress. Also, you will need to combine some items. Personally, I kept some notes on what I needed to do in order to progress. It helped me to get through a lot of puzzles.

Now, something I really missed was the ability to move the captain with something else then the mouse. There are a few timed puzzles and it would have been a great if I was able to move him with the arrow keys. It would have been especially helpful with the last section of the game since you needed to go off screen and it wasn’t always clear if the captain was still walking or not.

Most likely due to the engine of this game, ALT+F4 and things of those nature doesn’t work. You can ALT+TAB out of the game but if you want to close the game, you will have to go through the very easy to use menu system. You can open the menu system by clicking the gear icon in the upper right of your screen.

The music in this game is hit and miss in my opinion. There are a few tracks I really liked but there were bits of the soundtrack that I didn’t like at all. Thankfully, there were no sound effects that are bad. These were all pretty good.

Before I go to my final thoughts of this game and this review, I want to mention something funny. Some games have this quirk while others don’t have this quirk. When you need to move a character with your mouse and the animation is bound to the mouse click, that means if you spam click, the animation resets. It was quite funny to see the captain sort of floating or shuffling instead of walking when I spam clicked around.

If you think that this game is interesting, this game only costs 9 dollars. But, if you want to try it first, there is a demo of the first hour of the game up on the official website of the game. Go and check it out. But now, it’s time ZB. Time for my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The automatic save system could have been better.
  • The visuals on where you can go aren’t always there.
  • The voice over work could have used a bit more work. Sound mixing and a bit too flat and monotone.

The good:

+ Charming visual design.

+ Great puzzles.

+ Goofy story.

+ The amount of references.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Now, is this game bad? No. Is this game good? Almost. If there was a bit more polish to the visual presentation and the voice over work, I would say that this game is good. Now, I found it a pretty decent point-and-click adventure game.

It’s not the worst nor is it the best I have ever played. But, I still do recommend this game to avid fans of retro games and especially of old school point-and-click adventures. It’s impressive that most of this game is created by two developers and it got this result. It clearly shows that this game has been created as a labor of love. It actually made me want to play and take a look at the other games in the series.

I want to thank the developers of this game to introduce me to this game. It was a great ride to play this game. I think you are on the right track in making amazing games but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I think you are ready to push the next games of the captain even further. To make them even better and to give him an even crazier adventure.

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

Score: 70/100

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 it’s 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 because 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 over work. 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 is 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 loose 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 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 gyrocontrols 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 supports 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 area’s 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 are the hidden object puzzles. In these puzzles, you are tasked with finding a handful of items in picture. There is a punishment when you spamclick on the picture. The screen will “break” and you are unable to click for a certain amount of time.

A 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 a 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.

A 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 a 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 in 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 are 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. 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 was 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 it’s 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 menu’s. 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 collectables, 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 of 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 collectors 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 it’s audio visual 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 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 setting, 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 used 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 collectors 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 collectors 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 collectors 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 agree 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, 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 now-a-days? That’s has two reasons. The first reason is because games just got more accessible. Because 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 challenge. Sadly enough, not all games do this. In most games, the difficulty settings have a small explanation to what each level means.

And this brings me to the second reason why games are too easy now-a-days and that’s 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 get slimmer with every game I play.

Is this a bad thing? 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 are the Super Mario World games. In these games, you learn by playing the game. You might have heard this explanation in various other video’s 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 is 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, were 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, the 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 me 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 conclusion that there are 4 types of difficulty in my eyes.

The first type is 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 unintended difficulty. This was 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 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 forth 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 at the final boss. This annoying battle gets such a difficulty spike 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 the 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 is really thin and makes 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 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 now-a-days 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 what everybody thinks. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic on 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 included it in the next article. And with that said, I think I’ll really end off this article. Thank you everybody for helping me putting 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, that 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 draught 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 the 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 was 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 to 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 of 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 dying 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 loose 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 for 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 get 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.

Game Quicky: The Pepper Prince – Episode 1 (PC) ~ Rhyming For A Cake

headerOfficial Steam pageDeveloper’s website

Quite often I get indie developers requesting me to take a look to their game. Today I want to talk about a game called “The Pepper Prince” which is an episodic adventure fully created in ASCII art. At the moment, there are 5 episodes planned and only the first episode has been released. Full disclosure, the developers provided me with a press key for this review. And as usual, in this article you will find my 100% honest opinion. So, let’s get backing and rhyming for a wedding cake of two princes. Yes, princes. And also 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.

The positives

pp-7The story in this game is very quirky. It’s completely written in rhyme and it’s enjoyable to read through. The humor, charm and pacing is just on point.

The only minor thing is that the story was over before I knew it, it was that well-crafted, it drew me in that much that I forgot that each episode contains only one hour of gameplay. I’m now even more excited to play the following parts of the story.

The gameplay of this game is quite enjoyable. It’s a great point-and-click game where you need to look for items to help other characters that in turn help you to progress your quest. The “TO DO” list in the journal was a great help when I didn’t know what my next steps would be.

The visual presentation isn’t for everybody. I can totally imagine some players looking at the ASCII art and skipping this game. But not for this retro gamer, oh no! While playing this game, I felt like I looked up my old-school retro gaming PC and I was playing those old DOS games during those winter-y nights with a cup of hot chocolate and an a warm blanket wrapped around me. This game leaves a lot up to the imagination and I love it when games pull this off well.

The music in this game adds to the old school charm. The only thing I would recommend to the developers is that there is an option to have more MIDI music playing. It would just make the whole experience that more perfect.

The difficulty in this game is just right. Thanks to the journal, you have a great list of all the things you have to do. You can always ask about various tasks to all the characters that often point you in the right direction. While this game doesn’t have a mini-map screen, the characters point you in the right direction by saying things like: “I have seen him go west.” and things like that. Now, this game isn’t too challenging. In a matter of fact, it’s quite easy and relaxing actually.

The negatives

pp-2Now, this game is very well created. But, there are some things I would change in a future update or for the following episodes.

I’m quite happy to see an achievement for speedrunners. You get an achievement when you are able to finish the first episode in 15 minutes. Now, I totally miss one option that would make this even more helpful. A timer. Yes, a timer so speedrunners can keep track of the time and know when they need to restart when they aren’t going to make the 15 minute mark.

Something I would personally change is the color of either the items you can pick up and the characters. At the moment, they use the same color. This confused me a few times, thinking that an item was a character I could interact with. In addition to that, a small sound effect when you get something in your inventory would be a great addition.

This whole game is controlled by the mouse. Something that would add quite a lot to the charm of this game is if you were able to use the keyboard to control this game to some extent. Since a lot of old school DOS games don’t support the mouse. But that might be just my preference.

Conclusion

This game nailed the charm of an old school DOS game perfectly. The game is enjoyable and great to play through.

The game also has a lot of potential and with a few changes, the game can become even better.

If you are into point-and-click games and or into old school DOS games, I highly recommend this game. Like I said earlier in my article, I was pulled into the charm and story of this game so much, I forgot that the game is quite short. It made me even more excited to play the upcoming episodes of this game. I want to see how the story will continue and where it takes me next.

The game is also quite cheap on Steam, so I think you have no excuse to give this game a go. I enjoyed the relaxing gameplay. 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.

pepper prince 1

 

Gamer’s Thoughts: NekoJonez VS his backlog

So, I would be lying if I said that I don’t have a backlog. I do have a backlog and it’s rather huge. To be honest, I stopped keeping a list of the games that are on my backlog and I just started playing the games that I wanted to play or that are in my collection. If I have to guess, I think there are over 500 games in my backlog. Do I honestly care that there so much games in my backlog? Not at all, I love it! Because that means I always have a game that I could be playing when I’m feeling bored. And for those who don’t know why I have so many games on my backlog, that’s because I’m a game collector and I collect games left and right. Almost every week or two, I add a game to my collection so I rarely have time to finish a game. Now, why am I talking about this? Because LaterLevels and LightingEllen are doing a collaboration with a lot of other bloggers talking about their backlogs and I felt like joining in. And before I continue, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the backlog, your backlog and/or the content of this article.

NekoJonez’s Backlog

Now, in my introduction I said that I had given up on keeping a backlog. This is quite true. I have piles and piles of games in my room and in my digital libraries begging to be played. Yet, I keep playing the same games over and over again.

But are there really over 500 games on my backlog? Well, because I don’t keep track in that much depth, I think that’s the best answer. When I just look at my 800 games large Steam library and cross off all the games I have finished, I think we get close to that 500 games mark. And at that moment, I haven’t started counting all the games I have for my consoles and handhelds.

How did it grow so out of hand? The first reason I already explained in the introduction of this article. I’m a game collector. Every one or two weeks, a game gets added to my collection. And it’s quite rare that I buy one single game now-a-days. Apart from newly released games of course. When I’m looking for new games to play, I go to thrift stores or garage sales to buy them for a real cheap price. In other cases, coworkers, friends, family just give them to me because they don’t need those games anymore since they are left unplayed.

A second reason is one that you are reading right now. This very blog. Because I like writing so much, I try to write an article every week about a different game. So, that means I talk about give or take 50 games each year. A more realistic number would be 35 – 40 different games each year. So, when I have written an article on a game, I have already moved on to another game to write about. Even when I quite enjoy playing a game, I place it on my backlog to finish later when I have a bit more time. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that I get requests from developers to play their games and write an article about them.

This brings me to my 3rd reason why my backlog is so big. Because I’m a game collector for multiple systems, I often switch between systems while playing games. For example, I’m in a PS2 – Switch period lately. The result is that I have posted quite a lot of PS2 and Switch articles lately. Now, I got a few Gamecube games for my birthday, so that might mean that I’m going to play a lot of Gamecube, Wii and Wii U games in the near future. But, I’m also really interested in the new Challenge Tombs that are getting released for Shadow of the Tomb Raider. And once I open Steam, I see that bundle of games I bought at the Lunar sale that I wanted to play. This is exactly what I mean when I say in an article: “I got distracted by other games.”

A fourth reason is one that started during my teenage years and now carried over in my twenties. I dislike focusing on one or two games. For example, I’m playing Resident Evil 4 and I get frustrated because I’m unable to beat a certain section. Instead of getting frustrated and fed up with the game, I just stop playing the game and take out another game to play. The main reason I play games are to have fun and talking out of experience, my performance in games gets worse when I have to repeat a section over and over again. Now, it does happen from time to time that one game is so much fun, I ignore all other games for a while. During the last Christmas holiday I have played so much Rollercoaster Tycoon. To the point I have almost completed the original campaign and half of the campaigns in the expansion packs.

Now, what is your backlog actually? Are these the games that you have started and never finished or the games you really want to play? Is it a combination of both? Well, I think it’s a combination of both those things. But, can you scrap a game from your backlog? When it has been too long on your backlog or when you feel you don’t want to beat it? For example, I have never beaten the original Pokémon games BUT I have gotten extremely close. It’s the final rival fight that I’m unable to beat. Now, would you say that these games are on my backlog until I have beaten them completely? Well, now I’m totally overthinking it. Whoops.

I might have said it a few times already in this article but do I honestly care that my backlog is so long? No! I don’t care at all. The big advantage of this is that I can pick up a console or boot up my PC and just pick a game I feel like playing and have a great time. It also means that I always have a game to play when I’m in a certain mood. On top of that, it makes for a great reason to finish or replay games when I want to write an article about them.

The questions

Now, LaterLevels and LightningEllen have a few questions in this collaboration. Let get to answering them.

Game most likely never to be played

That’s a thought question. Since in most cases, there is always a time I pick up a game I have bought ages ago. For example, a few years ago, I added Final Fantasy X and X-2 to my collection and I started to play those two games for a short while during my summer holiday in 2017. Another example is more recent. When I started playing Resident Evil 4, I saw that I have a few other Resident Evil games in my collection so I’m trying those out in between Resident Evil 4 sessions.

If I really need to answer this question, I think it are the Football Manager games I got in a pick-up but then again, I might start playing them in a summer break when I want to play something unique and different that I haven’t played before.

I could cheat and tell talk about Lego Fever. It’s a game I played a lot when I was younger, but it refuses to work on newer systems. Plus, it’s quite rare to find, since there are no physical copies of and yeah.

In addition to that, I have technical issues with getting the game to run on my computers so it’s unplayable for now. But then again, I just need to take some time out of my day to figure out what’s causing the error and just try to get it working on one of my retro gaming machines. Oh well, one day this will happen.

Shortest game

Ace Attorney 6 – Spirit of Justice

I don’t understand why this keeps happening. I have bought all the DLC cases and I haven’t finished the DLC case yet. I’m such a big fan of the Ace Attorney series, it battles my mind that I just start playing this case and get distracted by other games and leave this one on the backlog.

The case sounds quite interesting to me as well, since it does something different and makes old characters return. Maybe it’s a great sign for the future of the series… (hint hint, subject of another collab). So, come on Jonez! Put aside an afternoon during the weekend and finish this game!

Longest game

Ehrm, I’m sorry… But I’m not going to list all these games I just played the first couple of sections to test out how the game plays and haven’t finished yet. If you just look at the first impressions series on my blog, you start to get an idea on how many games I haven’t fully beaten yet. Now, I have beaten some of these titles, but I haven’t gotten around to writing the review yet. So, you could say that I even have a review backlog.

But, if I really have to put a game here… Let’s pick one at random and let’s say… PopoloCrois. A while back, I said I was considering writing an article about this game. But, my PSP decided to delete all my save files of this game and I lost so much progress… I got so annoyed I actually stopped playing this game and I haven’t picked it up yet again. But, I was having so much fun. So, yeah. I need to change that.

Game which has spent the most time on the backlog

Oh dear. I’m honestly unable to answer this question because I collect retro games and I just play games I find in the wild or strike my fancy while browsing the eShops. Like I said earlier, some games I only play for a few minutes to test the games out. For example, I have started up so many Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts games… I know for a fact that some people are going to dislike what I’m going to say next but I haven’t finished a Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Witcher, Metal Gear, The Elder Scrolls, Dragon Quest, Sonic, Mega Man, Castlevania, Metroid, GTA, Assassin’s Creed … game. Yes. I haven’t played a lot of the BIG and popular titles.

In addition to that, since I started reviewing games 8 years ago, I stopped keeping track of the games on my backlog and just enjoy the games in my collection and picking the game that suits my fancy at that moment so I can’t even tell for how long I own a certain game. Expect when I got it for as a birthday present or when it holds a special memory. So, I’m sorry, I’m unable to answer this question.

The person responsible for adding the most entries to your backlog

Would it be cheap to say, my wallet? Because I buy so many games in bulk, it happens frequently that games get on my backlog. Now, actual answer on this question should be the person who gives me tells me about the games I should be playing or the games that are interesting.

And to be honest, there are a lot of people who give me advice or suggestions in terms of the games I should play. From fellow bloggers to YouTubers I love watching. A few examples spring to mind: NitroRad, AVGN (yes, like a TON of other video game reviewers), SomeOneCallMeJhonny, Eruption, Scott The Woz and Lazy Game Reviews. There are a lot of retro video game reviewers out there and I just keep watching them to discover new games. Outside of the YouTube space, there are bloggers like: Hundstrasse, The Well Red Mage and Insert Disk. There are so many people I could name. And I shouldn’t forget the countless other collectors inside the Facebook and Discord groups I’m a part of.

Besides that I love browsing RetroWareTV and browsing websites like eBay and local second hand websites to check what they have on offer.

So yes, I don’t have one person that is responsible for adding the most entries to my backlog since a lot of people give me ideas, suggestions and series to look into. It’s extremely difficult to keep track off that.

Oh, and I shouldn’t forget that I often get coworkers, friends and family that donate or just give me games after a spring cleaning or something amongst those lines.

Wrapping up

With all the questions answered, I want to thank you so much for reading this article. It was an interesting article to write since I see my backlog in a totally different way than your typical definition of the word.

To me, my backlog is more of a suggestions log. A suggestions log of games I could play and/or take a look at. If the game interests me enough, I’m going to continue to play it. If it doesn’t interest me, I remember it to try it out later or I just give it a nice spot in my collection.

Now, surprisingly, even to me sometimes, but not every game that I play becomes an article. That’s because I have an article backlog and when I write an article about a game, it’s quite possible that I already forgot about a few games. But all of that is for another article.

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

First Impression: Project Zero 2 – The Crimson Butterfly (PS2) ~ A Sisterly Bond

Fatal_Frame_II_-_Crimson_Butterfly

Wikipedia entry

Ah Fatal Frame, a series I found quite interesting when I was a little child but fell in love with a few years ago when I was able to get my hands on a collector’s edition of the Wii U entry in the series. It was the 5th entry in the series and I loved it so much, I started to hunt down all the other entries in the series. Last year, I was able to get myself all the European released games on PS2, in a physical copy! While testing them out,  enjoyed myself quite a lot with Fatal Frame 2. So, I kept playing that game. It’s no secret that I enjoyed myself with this game since I gave a spot on my top 10 games I played in 2018. So what are my actual opinions on this game? Well, let’s find out! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

PS: The article was originally going to be publish on this Sunday, but because today is my 26th birthday, I decided to publish it today as a birthday special.

A sisterly bond

fatal frame II screenshot 2The story starts out with two sisters running around in the forest playing. Suddenly, the pass a stone and it looks like the duo entered another dimension. The two get terrified that there is no easy way out and even worse, the two split up. Not willing, mind you. One of the two sisters get mesmerized with a crimson butterfly that she keeps following.

So, you need to go look for your sister in a creepy and haunted town while you need to escape ghosts and try to find an exit of the city. The setting for this horror game is excellent. The voice acting in this game is really well done, the voices of the two sisters is excellent. I also loved the performances of the ghosts since they kept me on the edge of my seat in certain battles.

The story is mostly told through notes, cutscenes and the environment.  There are moments you are together with your sister and there are moments she sees that damned butterfly again.  She really likes these red butterflies. Now, the story so far has been quite enjoyable. While sometimes I feel that the story is mostly used to string levels and area’s together, it’s executed extremely well. I really felt that something strange was happening and that there were higher powers at play.

Now, I am quite curious where the story of this game will go. The mysteries are getting unrevealed slowly but I still don’t have any answers. Now, do you need to play the first game before you can understand the story of the 2nd game? Well, not at all. The story is totally independent from the first game, while a lot of story mechanics return in the second game, all the characters are new.

Also, I haven’t beaten the original game myself. Now, you might wonder why I have chosen to play this game on the PS2 and not go for the director cut on the XBOX or Wii. That has two reasons. One, I don’t own an XBOX and two, the physical copy of the Wii game is extremely expensive. Now, when I was finishing up this review, I discovered that the game got released on the Nintendo eShop, so I bought myself a digital copy.

Anyways, we are getting off track here. The story itself is interesting. It’s two fold actually. In one part, it’s about how to escape the village and in another part, it’s about saving your sister. So, I have the impression that this game has multiple endings. But, I have to beat the game to know that for sure!

Spooky Camera

project_zero_2-6Because this is a Fatal Frame game, the Camera Obscura shows itself again. If you have played any other games in the series, you know how this game plays. In this game, you have to explore an area that’s filled with ghosts. Some ghosts aren’t hostile but the most of them are hostile. In order to defeat the ghosts, you have to take pictures of the ghosts. The better they are in frame, the more damage they receive. The damage also depends on the film you use. There is an aspect of survival horror to this game since the amount of film isn’t infinite. The stronger films are really hard to find and quite rare.

Combat in this game is an awkward dance with the ghosts. You have to come close to snap a good picture. But, if they are too close, they can grab you and you get damage. So, you have to move backwards. Now, the camera you use is quite old. So, it needs to recharge after each use. You have audio and visual cues to see when the camera is recharging.

To be honest, I found the combat controls better in the Wii U game I played. In my review of Resident Evil 4, I mentioned that I had difficulty with aiming my gun on the PlayStation 2. The same thing applies here. So, each play session, I have to get used to the controls. It doesn’t take too long, but it makes me miss the Wii U controls. Maybe when I play the Wii version, I won’t have this issue too much.

Now, this game doesn’t have an autosave. Much like Resident Evil 4, you can save at certain locations. In this game, it’s a red lantern on a pedestal. You have a limited amount of save slots, but that doesn’t bother me too much since it helps me to get more points. Side note, there is an improvement over the save system of Resident Evil since there is a small picture accompanying the save file.

Yes, the better the image, the higher the points you get. These points can be used to upgrade your camera. Upgrades like shutter speed or damage output. You can also find upgrades in various, sometimes hidden, locations to get certain things up to a higher level. There is a safer way in earning points as well. If you are able to make a picture of the scripted harmless ghosts, you get some bonus points. So, it’s highly advised to explore around and not go to solve the puzzles straight away.

Oh yes, this game has puzzles. Some of the puzzles require you to analyze a photograph and try to work out where it came from. Other puzzles require you to find a certain key item to open a door or to lift a curse on a door in order to progress.

Like a lot of other survival horror games, this game also suffers from some jump scares. Now, I find the build up to the jump scares pretty good. Most of the jump scares happen a bit off screen when you haven’t encountered a ghost for a while. In the Wii U game, the jump scares were way worse. Also, it’s quite possible to miss some jump scares if you didn’t explore certain areas of the room.

Exploring the city and the buildings is made much easier with a great map system. The map draws itself while you are exploring. The area only adds itself when the area is discovered. Also, when a door is locked, the door isn’t shown in blue but in red. Now, if you unlock a door when solving a puzzle that is somewhere else on the map, I don’t know for sure if the door also changes to blue. Since, to be honest, I haven’t paid attention to that.

There are a few additional things to the combat and gameplay I’m going to keep a secret for this article. The only thing I’ll say about it is that there is a combo system and a few other features. The camera is used in so many different unique and creative ways, it keeps the mechanic from being repetitive.

 Atmosphere in the dark

fatal frame II screenshotThis game is totally worth to wear the title of horror game. The atmosphere of the game is done extremely well. While this game first released on the PS, this game still looks amazing to this day. Some models and textures do show their age, but the lighting and visual design gives an extremely creepy atmosphere. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat during most of my play sessions. I even went as far as closing the curtains of my room or to play this game at night with a good pair of headphones and in the dark. Only the dim glow of my darkened LCD television to keep me company.

I have played this game without and with my headset on. I found the game better when I played with a headset or with a good sound system. I wouldn’t listen to most of the soundtrack outside of the game but in the game, it helps to build the scary atmosphere so well. Some tracks sound like wind blowing through the room or that something is chasing and/or following you. Together with the amazing sound design of the ghosts, this game is just creepy.

The ghosts don’t sound either human nor other worldly. This is especially creepy because the ghosts moan and speak in Japanese. Well, most of them speak Japanese. Some ghosts also speak English and hearing that suddenly makes it even more creepy. They even managed to make picking up items scary with playing an animation and a creepy sound effect each time when you reach down to pick up an item. You also never know what the item will be since it’s a glowing white orb on the ground. It’s also possible to find some items in various drawers and house hold items. So, explore away!

Now, the bulk of the story is told through the locations you visit. There are some cut scenes where somethings are explained, but the visuals help to tell the story. There are also some moments where you find a stone that tells some additional story to flesh out the story even more. Earlier in this first impression, I talked about how the two sisters entered a cursed village and they are trying to find their way out. In this game you explore various locations. From a graveyard to a scary forest. You also explore various typical Japanese homes to a big shrine. While I was exploring, I really felt I was exploring an abandoned haunted village. The realism and attention for detail in the visual presentation is amazing.

Something I really want to praise this game for is that lighting. The lighting in this game is one of the strongest points. Of course, the game takes place during the night. It’s never light outside. At least, so far. I haven’t finished the game after all. The various candles littered around the village help to sell the atmosphere even more. The flashlight that you can control with one of the joysticks of the PS controller works flawlessly.

So, I think it’s quite clear that the atmosphere of this game is solid. When you want to play a good horror game, I highly recommend this game. The game also provides you with some good challenges. From tricky ghost encounters to clever puzzles. Now, you can run away from the ghosts, but you’ll lose points. And if you don’t get enough points, you might not be able to defeat certain bosses easily. Since, points = upgrades.

The controls is something that some people don’t like about this game. Personally, I got used to them after a while. I already talked about the struggle I had with the aiming of the camera. But, that also helps in the immersion department in a way. Remember, you are playing as a young Japanese girl trapped in a cursed village looking for your sister and a way to escape. Of course, you are scared and you are looking frantically for a way to defend yourself.

I’m almost forgetting to talk about the animation of this game. The animation in this game gets extremely close to the uncanny valley. I’m convinced that it’s in the uncanny valley for some. Especially how certain characters react and express their emotions. For example, how the two sisters like arms when they are witnessing something scary for the first time. They are looking for comfort with each other. It still blows my mind that there was such life like animation on the PlayStation 2.

I could continue to talk about this game for a while longer but most of it will be praising the game. If you are a horror fan, you really owe it to yourself to check out this game. The quality of the Fatal Frame series is up there with the Silent Hill and the original Resident Evil games. I’ll talk a bit more in depth about the game when I write my review. Consider the things I haven’t talked about in this first impression review as nice surprises when you decide to play this game.

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

Review: Atelier Rorona -The Alchemist of Arland- DX (Switch) ~ Crafting The Adventure With Alchemy.

atelier-rorona-featureWikipedia page

On my top 10 games list of 2018, I talked about Atelier Rorona. I talked about how this game got me interested in the Atelier series. Now, it’s time to give my full opinion on the game. Why did I place this game on my top ten list and why wasn’t it higher on the list? I think it’s time to talk about crafting and exploring. Adventuring and RPG’ing. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Get of your lazy bum

atelier rorona screen 1The story of this game has a simple premise. You play as Rorona, a young girl who is an apprentice at a local alchemy shop in the Arland Kingdom. Her master Astrid is so lazy that business isn’t going well at all. In a matter of fact, she didn’t get of her lazy bum for so long, the kingdom is considering to close down the shop. Rorona doesn’t want this to happen so she takes on the challenges provided by the kingdom. She gets a deadline of three years. During these three years she has to prove that she can run the alchemy shop and make profit. If she fails one of these challenges, the shop will be closed without any further question.

On the surface, the story of this game isn’t anything special. It’s one that has been done various times before. Yet, the story actually changes a lot on your actions. It depends on who you take with you on your journey, how good you craft your items, how you interact with the characters and how you run your alchemy shop. The one that lazy Astrid sort of gave to you because she wanted more sleep but didn’t want the shop to be closed.

This makes the story quite a lot of fun to play through. Because each and every playthrough is going to be different, you will have a different story. This game has various endings that all depend on how good you did during your missions provided by the kingdom. When I had beaten the game for the first time, I got a very generic ending that didn’t give the closure I felt that the story deserved. Because of that, I feel motivated to replay this game with so I can get an even better ending.

The writing of this game makes replaying this game even more enjoyable. While I was playing this game, I posted a short clip on my Twitter showing off the voice acting. The game has a lot of funny and charming moments. I actually fell in love with the characters of this game. Now, depending on how good you play this game, the characters you interact with get more character development.

Now, during my playthrough the story was quite enjoyable. While it didn’t have a lot of moments where I sat on the edge of my seat, it was quite relaxing. Maybe the other endings have more thrilling moments, but over all I enjoyed the story quite a lot. The writing, the pacing and the voice acting make for an enjoyable experience. I can’t wait to see how the game plays out on my next playthrough.

With that said, how do you actually go about saving the shop? For that, Rorona needs to gather ingredients from various locations and craft various items. Depending on the quality of the items, you get better items. Now, I do have one thing I felt mixed about in terms of the gameplay.

Running that shop

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-01-ps4-us-04dec2018

Yes, this is a screenshot from the PS3 version, but the Switch version looks the same apart from the different buttons.

While the story pacing is quite good, the pacing of the game is … let’s just say, strange. Because the game gives of a relaxing and casual vibe, the game can feel extremely slow. But this is very misleading. Because you have a strict time limit; you shouldn’t waste time at all. You have to play every move extremely carefully. The more mistakes you make, the worse your ending gets. The depth in this game is crazy. You do get an assistant in the middle point of the game. This mechanic saved me various times. You can assign this assistant to go and explore for you or craft items for you.

Be warned, the tutorials of this game only scratch the surface of the mechanics of this game. Something I recommend is that you use the save system to your advantage. I had various saves at various points. So, I can go back when I felt I was able to finish the missions with better results.

Talking about the save system, the fact that this game got ported from a PlayStation system really shows in the UI. If you have played a game on a PlayStation you will recognize the typical save and load UI easily. The only thing that annoys me is that I’m unable to name my saves. This would have helped quite a lot.

So, you have to explore, fight monster and craft items. This sounds like your typical RPG fair. You do have side quests that can help you to get a better relationship with a certain character. Some of these side quests have the potential to improve the reputation of the shop which also has a big influence on the ending of the story.

All in all, the biggest challenge of this game is time management. Use your time wisely and try to waste as few days as you can. I always tried to finish the assignment of the kingdom as fast as I could. When I finished that, I used the remaining days to explore new area’s and improve my relationship with the other characters.

The gameplay immersed me quite a lot. I really felt like a shop owner trying to find the best strategy to get my shop up and running and to try to get as many customers as I can. While the game isn’t too difficult to get the most basic ending, the challenge for this game hides in trying to get the best endings.

A normal playthrough of this game will take you somewhere around 20 hours. But, if you want to see all the endings, you will get a lot more out of this game. On howlongtobeat.com, there are reports of players taking 60 to 100 hours to fully complete this game. Now, this is for the PlayStation 3 version. On the time of writing this review, the website has no listing for the Nintendo Switch version.

Now, the meat of this game is in exploration and the crafting. First of all, let’s go a bit more in-depth about the exploration. During your exploration you can take two allies with you. Certain allies require a certain price to hire. This price needs to be paid up front. So, make sure you have enough gold in the bank to hire them.

During the exploration you can go to various locations. Each location has several area’s you can explore that provide different items. These items aren’t randomized, so if you find herbs in a certain area, you will be able to find those herbs every time there.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that you have an inventory limit. If you reach that limit, you have to throw out items. Also, you need to keep in mind that certain items can lose their freshness. For example, if you collect berries and don’t put them in your storage in the chest in the shop, the quality will drop.

During your exploration, you can see certain spots where items can be gathered. In the meantime, you see the enemies roaming around. When you interact with them, you can start a fight with them. The battles are turn-based. It’s the system you see in a million other RPG’s. But there are a few differences.

One difference is that only an alchemist can use items. So, only Rorona can use healing items during the battle. Another difference is that you can use certain characters to defend you and make combo attacks. In each battle, a meter builds up. When that meter is full, you can use the shoulder buttons to defend Rorona. A similar mechanic counts for the combo attacks.

One thing you need to keep in mind during the exploration is that moving between locations and area’s takes valuable time. So, make sure you know which items you need and where you can find them and plan accordingly. Otherwise you might get into trouble and you aren’t able to craft certain items.

In addition to that, keep in mind that you have a limited amount of MP. MP is also used to craft items. And this brings me on the second part of the gameplay I want to focus on, the crafting. This is something I didn’t always paid attention too. Each item can have certain properties that make a huge difference during crafting. Each item has also a quality level that changes the outcome quite a lot as well.

Something I found extremely tricky was looking for high quality items. For some reason, I always found mid tear or low tier quality items. I’m quite sure that this was one of the reasons that resulted in me having a mediocre ending. Now that I know that, I know what I should look for in a second playthrough.

Anyways, the crafting system itself is a bit basic. You can select various ingredients to craft an item. If you don’t have a certain sub ingredient that is craftable, you get forwarded to the craft menu of that item. One thing that I found really annoying was that it wasn’t always clear which ingredients were missing. For example, the icon of the missing ingredient was a flame. But I had a few ores that looked extremely similar. Yet that wasn’t the ingredient I needed. It turns out I needed oil.

Something I really liked was that in the crafting list, you were able to sort ingredients in terms of quality or rarity. Also, you had various symbols that gave information if you were or weren’t able to craft a certain item. For example, a triangle means that you are able to craft the item but you have to craft a sub item first.

One thing that I would like to mention is that this game can be repetitive. It’s quite easy to fall in a loop for every assignment or mission. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. And repeat. Each assignment has a different theme like preparing for a festival or helping to craft medicine.

I didn’t mind too much, but I feel that a bit more variation in the gameplay would do the game some good. For example, a bit more assignments where you needed to defeat a certain number of monsters or collect a certain amount of ingredients would do the trick.

Arland is saved

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-03-ps4-us-04dec2018Let’s talk about visuals. This game looks quite nice in my opinion. While the game could have benefited from a free camera, I actually didn’t mind too much since the camera allowed me to watch the nice city and fun dungeons in great detail. Some enemies suffer from the recolor syndrome, like the slime enemies. There are at least 3 variants and only the color has been changed. I wish those games added a few extra details. Oh well. At least I never had slowdowns during gameplay and I was able to play the game at a decent frame rate.

In terms of animation, this game is good. While the cut scenes would have benefited from some more character animation instead of gorgeous looking 2D artwork. Now, if the game came out in a previous generation, I would excuse this…. oh, wait… that’s right, this game is a port of a PS3 game. Then again, the PS3 is capable of so much more. Oh well.

Now something that bugged me a bit is the rather awkward jumping animation. I think it’s missing a few frames near the end where Rorona’s feet almost snap into place. It also looks strange when you adjust your jump in midair. Since Rorona sort of floats awkwardly. It’s hard to put into words but while the jump works great, it feels off and looks a bit off.

Jumping in itself is easy to do and control. You just press the jump button and voila. I don’t have any complaints about the controls. I really like how there is a dedicated button to cycle through Rorona’s animations. The game controls great and I didn’t have need to spend time getting used to them. The UI explains it so well, I got the hang of it right away. One minor nitpick is that the prompt for running is a tad confusing. When the UI shows a button for “running ON” and you press that button, Rorona actually starts walking. So, that promt in the UI actually shows the status if you are running or not.

Now, the UI has some amazing things I really liked. Like how easy it is to sort items or the great and easy to use crafting system. But I have a few complaints. First of all, I wish I was able to see which ingredients where at a certain location before I actually travelled there. I would have been able to save so many days…

Secondly, while I totally understand why the developers did this; I wish I was able to see how many days it would take to go to a newly discovered gathering area. The reason why they don’t tell you this is most likely for immersions reasons.

And my final and third complaint is when you buy armor, you can’t see if it would increase somebody’s stats or not. This was quite annoying, especially when the armor shop rarely has new items because the game really wants that you craft it yourself.

The music and sound effects for this game are good. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the story quite well. It’s relaxing and rather melodic. It helps to get immersed into the game. I even added the soundtrack to my playlist for when I want to relax. Now, the sound effects are great but I wish there were a bit more of them. For the whole crafting system, the use the same effects and I would love some different ones for food or bombs. Also, one for days passing while the clock ticked over would be the cherry on the cake.

Oh, and here is something nice, you can totally change the whole soundtrack. Yes, while interacting with the book in the atelier, you can change each and every track to another track. You can choose between a pretty long list of other games in the series. Now, this is an amazing feature but it could have used some additional features. Like a reset to default option and one where you easily see which song you have selected since in that menu there is a lot of unused screen space. And the biggest missing feature is in my opinion a preview of what song is currently playing. Oh dear, they were so close.

In that same menu, you can access the different costumes for Rorona. As far as I know these are only cosmetic. You can do save file management and decorate the atelier to a certain degree. You can also access the options menu where you can adjust the sound mix to your liking. In here, you can also change the language of the voice acting to Japanese or English. So, if you want Rorona to greet you in Japanese in the main menu, you can do that.

After you have finished the game, there is a postgame chapter. I won’t spoil what the chapter is about but it adds some additional story. But after this post game, there is no free roaming. So, you can’t experiment with the game… This is a real missed opportunity since I would have loved to try and experiment with the game to learn and have a better run next time. Yet, on the other hand, I totally understand why they did this. Because the game has so many different endings in which different characters aren’t present, it would have been a hell to program.

Interestingly, during me writing this review and posting it; the game got a small update. I have no clue what has been added, but I wanted to mention it, just in case something in my review doesn’t make sense anymore.

With that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave some things out for you as a surprise if you decide to play this game. But, it’s time for the conclusion of this review and my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The jump animation looks awkward.
  • The game can be repetitive.
  • There is no free play in the post content.

The good:

+ Enjoyable story, writing and voice acting.

+ Amazing charm.

+ Great UI.

+ High replay value due to the different endings.

+ Relaxing soundtrack and you can change it to your liking!

+ ….

Final thoughts:

I don’t know exactly how this game compares to other games in the Atelier series. Since this game is the first game in the series I have played. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my time with this game quite a lot. The game is on the surface a relaxing game with a lot of charm. But, don’t get fooled, this game can become quite hectic in a good way.

The game is quite enjoyable to play but difficult to master. You really need to plan every single move to make sure to you get yourself in a difficult situation.

This game is perfect for everybody who is looking for an RPG with a crafting system or somebody who is looking for a shop simulator. While I can totally understand why some people won’t enjoy this game too much, it did click with me.

But the game is far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong, this game is quite good but it has some flaws that hinder the gameplay in my opinion. Like the strict deadlines and the repetitive nature of the game.

Personally, I recommend that you give this game a try. If only there was a demo of this game you could try out and judge for yourself if this game is for you are not. I bought this game because the screenshots and descriptions looked interesting on the Nintendo eShop and I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, I can’t wait to play the other games in this trilogy to see if they improved the mechanics in the other games. Maybe they crafted an even better adventure while they kept everything that worked quite well in this game.

Do keep in mind that I’m not saying that this is a bad game. It’s a good game with some flaws. It’s up to you to decide if these flaws would hinder your enjoyment of the game or not. Since this game has a lot of depth so you will be able to have a lot of fun with this game.

With that said, I want to thank you for reading 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 different article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

Publishing: Be Part Of History With Rise Of Ages

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Rise of Ages is a sandbox game that lets you explore, build, found cities, make wars and evolve technologies to reach the highest level of a civilization and then travel to other planets! The game begins in prehistory and advances through ages, as the player evolves. In each era, the player will live a unique story, which will lead him to face dangerous dungeons and powerful enemies. Several building blocks and items will allow the player to create their own culture with unique structures.

History

Development of Rise of Ages began in early 2015, the team has dedicated all its time and effort since then to bring the game to life. Late 2016 a public demo was released at gamejolt to see public reception. The team keeped working on the game and is preparing to lauch the game on early access.

Features

  • Evolve from stone age to space age, going through a total of six eras.
  • Discover new technologies, each one expanding your possibilities. There is more than 30 of them.
  • Found your civilization and call NPCs to live there. A city is just the beginning, claim other cities through war and build an empire.
  • Each NPC will have a job and will work for you. They can specialize in a profession and become better at it. You can even create a supply chain.
  • Experience a unique story on each age through dozens of quests and multiple side quests.
  • Fight bosses that are powerful enemies and unimaginable beings.
  • Craft multiple objects from your hands or from your skilled workers.
  • Explore the world beyond the limits, going through the left/right most side of a region will leave you to the World Map that connects multiple regions of the world.


Check out the last public demo of Rise of Ages. gamejolt.com.


About Anguis Game Studio

Boilerplate
Anguis Game Studio is an independent game studio based in Porto Alegre, Brazil. We are working on our first title Rise of Ages

More information
More information on Anguis Game Studio, our logo & relevant media are available here.


Rise of Ages Credits

Michel Alves: Founder & Programmer

Ronaldo Boeira: Founder & Artist

Contact

Inquiries: contact@anguis.net

Twitter: twitter.com/AnguisStudio

Facebook: facebook.com/anguisstudio

Web: anguis.net

More information can be found in the press kit located here: http://playriseofages.com/presskit/sheet.php?p=Rise%20of%20Ages

The game is released on Steam TODAY: https://store.steampowered.com/app/744270/Rise_of_Ages/

Review: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

death mark

Official website

You are walking on a street and you overhear two schoolgirls talking to each other. They tell a story about one of their teachers dying in a horrible death. Her arm was found in the library of the school, cut off from the rest of the body with a red bite mark on the hand. That’s how Death Mark opens. The game I decided to play during the Halloween season because I already finished Angels of Death by then. Since I started playing the Zero Escape series and Corpse Party, I have been hooked on the horror genre. I wanted to play more horror games or games with a strong focus on horror. It doesn’t need to be survival horror like Resident Evil 4 or Silent Hill but a game that fits the mood of the holiday perfectly. Now, I know I’m terribly late with my review of this game. But, it was part of my top 10 games of 2018 list and I want to give my honest opinion on it. So, let’s talk about the PS Vita game that got ported to the Switch called Death Mark. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Alive until dawn

nswitch_deathmark_05So, the story of this game centers around the mystery of the mysterious Death Mark people have been receiving. This red bit mark appears on people’s bodies when they interact with spirits. The protagonist of this game suffers from your typical case of memory loss and doesn’t remember his past. After you heard the two girl’s their story, your own mark starts to burn and you get teleported to a mansion. When you enter the mansion, you find it to be abandoned. When you visit one of the bedrooms, a thunder crack reveals the dead body of a girl on the floor with flowers blooming from her stomach and chest. Startled, you run down starts where you meet up with a doll that explains to you that the Death Mark is quite real.

If you are unable to remove your mark, you will die by the time dawn comes. One theory that you quickly form is that you can possibly remove the mark by killing or defeating a spirit. But, how do you kill a spirit? How do you kill something that is already dead? Well, by trying to solve the grudge that is keeping them in the living realm.

After you got the explanation of the living wooden doll that lives on the sofa in the entrance of the mansion, you heard a knock on the door. You open the door and find two teenagers. They are looking for the previous inhabitant of the mansion. She is a spirit healer and they are looking for her help to get rid of the same mark you possess. It’s revealed that she was the dead body you discovered earlier. So, you try and take her place. So, now you start in trying to help the other people with a Death Mark while trying to discover who you are and which spirit gave you your Death Mark.

All of this is explained in a quite lengthy introduction. The writing of this game is amazing. If this story sounds interesting to you, I have to give you a fair warning. This game is a visual novel adventure game. There is quite a lot of text in this game. If you aren’t interested in playing a game that has more dialogue then gameplay, this isn’t your game.

I do have to say that the writing is amazing in this game. The story has it a weird charm. At one hand, the game has amazing characters and great development. It didn’t take long before I got attached to certain characters and I got quite invested in them. Yet, this game is also a horror game. So, a lot of creepy stuff happens on your journey. From finding death bodies to combating spirits, this game has it all. This game has just the perfect mix between the two worlds and I have no complaints about them. The pacing of the game is just perfect as well.

The only minor disappointment is that the characters are voice acted in Japanese. Now, I don’t mind Japanese voice acting that much, but I personally prefer English voice acting. The whole game isn’t voice acted, but quite a lot is. The voice acted that is present in the game is really great. But, I’m not going to critique it too much since I don’t know enough about Japanese to say it’s good or bad. But, from my personal experience, I feel that the voice actors always used the right emotion to what appears on screen.

This game has 6 chapters. The original PS Vita game had 5 chapters and one DLC chapter. The DLC chapter is included for free in this Switch port. There is something in terms of the chapters I’m quite on the fence about. The chapters themselves are not too long nor too short. But, if you combine all playtime to get through the game and fully beat it, this game takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete. This game is quite short, too short even.

Near the end, I was so invested in the game, I was extremely bummed when I finished the final chapter. I wanted to play more, explore the world and setting of the game a bit more. But alas. Thankfully, this game doesn’t have a lot of filler content. The story in some chapters can go at a breakneck pace and that was a refreshing experience.

Explore and read

nswitch_deathmark_04One of my favorite genres in video games is the visual novel. There are two types of visual novels; the ones with gameplay and the kinetic ones. The kinetic ones almost have no gameplay and I honestly dislike playing. This game isn’t a kinetic novel. In this game, you have to explore various areas where a spirit is roaming. During your exploration, you have to find a reason of the grudge of the spirit.

While you are exploring the area, you can come across live or death situations. You get presented with different options and if you choose the wrong option, you get a game over. In some cases, you lose soul power. What is this soul power? It’s the power of your soul, when this drops to 0, the spirit of the chapter catches you right away.

When you are in a live or death situation, you are timed. The remaining time you have, is the remaining soul power you have. During your exploration, you can find talismans that restore your soul power if it gets low. Now that I have beaten the game, I can say that there is no additional reward when you answer all the questions correctly without losing soul power. This is a missed opportunity. It would be great if this unlocked the additional 6th chapter or some character art.

Anyways, your soul power fully restores in-between chapters. So, you aren’t punished for mistakes in an earlier chapter. Personally, my favorite chapter is the 6th chapter. The moral of that chapter speaks to me on a personal level.

Now, there are two different endings to this game. The ending that you get depends if you are able to fully solve the grudge of the spirit of that chapter. So, when it comes to the climax of each chapter, think long and hard before you make your next move. Since one mistake during those battles can change the ending dramatically.

Speaking about the climax of each chapter, think carefully who you take as a partner on your journey. Sometimes you will be unable to defeat a spirit if you don’t have the right character in your party. I loved trying to work out who would be the best character to use against the spirit. Reading their character profile is even more important now than before. My advice is, save often. You are only able to save outside of dialogue sections. So, don’t be a hero and save after you made some progress. Also, pay attention that this game doesn’t automatically save. And when you are dead, you have to restart from your last save point. You can save using the “Y” button. There are a limited amount of save slots, so use them wisely.

Saving is this game is quite easy. After the introduction, you can save when you are in the mansion in a limited amount of save slots. Now, if you want to be able to restart a chapter, I highly advise you to save right after the introduction of the chapter. Since, there is no other way to start from a certain chapter. The only option in the main menu are new game, continue or a gallery. In this gallery, you can see the animation of the spirits and the images you saw during the chapter.

In terms of the UI, this game is good. I have no real complaints. I do have some minor suggestions. Especially with the inventory screen. This would feel so much better if the inventory screen had a static image of the item you have selected. Now, it’s just a boring looking list of items, like you would see in a spreadsheet.

Anyways, sometimes the story of one spirit links to the story of another spirit. In that case, you can always read a small summary in the pause menu. During that, you can watch the amazing full screen pictures that were used during the chapter.

During each chapter, you have to explore a location. You can only explore with one partner. The other partner or partners will stay at the mansion to look for clues in solving the mystery of the Death Mark. You can go at any moment to the entrance of the location to take the car back to the mansion to change partners. Like I said earlier, the choice of partner matters. If you are unable to solve a puzzle or pass through a location, try having another partner.

The locations themselves aren’t that large. It doesn’t take too long before you are able to fully explore the location. Now, there is something to do in each and every screen of the game. From small jump scares to big puzzles. Oh yes, this game has small jump scares. Most of the jump scares are rather subtle and aren’t too distracting from the exploration. To be honest, I found them used quite well. Also, it’s possible that you don’t even see all the jump scares since they are location specific.

During your journey for the truth in the Death Mark mystery, you explore a forest, a school and various other locations. Each location is extremely memorable. The detail in the artwork of each location is impressive. The atmosphere building with the visual presentation in this game is a strong point of this game. I really felt on edge while exploring certain locations. I really felt that the location I was exploring had a certain presence and a morbid history to it. In some occasions, the game managed to get underneath my skin.

Now, in terms of the animations, this game has a lot of missed potential. Apart from the spirit battles, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. I think it would have been better if the game had a bit more animations and scene transitions. For example, a walking animation from going between rooms would aid a lot with the world building and immersion. And if you give the option to the players to turn this animation on or off, it would be perfect. Now, there is a small dialogue box that appears when you move between rooms with a sound effect, but could be so much more.

On the edge of my seat

nswitch_deathmark_03Exploration in this game is really well done. During the game, you are able to use your flashlight to investigate each and every room. I highly advise that you look around carefully in each and every room. Since every little detail can aid you in your quest to solve the grudge of the spirit. The game helps you out a bit in the investigation. When you can interact with something, you see a little sparkle animation when you hover over it with your flash light.

When you have to use an item in your quest, the item will be automatically used. Expect during the spirit battles. In those battles you have to use every item in your inventory to try and defend yourself. You and the spirit take turns in making a move. If the spirit comes too close, it’s game over.

Apart from one puzzle, the puzzles in this game are well crafted. They really test your skills in exploring the area you are in and your investigation skills. Exploring the location gets even better with the fluid controls. The flashlight is mapped to one of the joysticks of the joycon and reacts very responsively.

Now, there is one thing that could turn some people off and that is the map system. During the exploration, you have a mini-map of the location at the top right. This mini-map is nothing more than a few squares and lines how the squares connect. So, you will have to build a mental map of the location during your exploration. This is highly essential when you don’t want to get lost. A more detailed map would have been welcome, but I felt it added to the world building of the game. Remember the story? You only have the few short hours of the night to try and get rid of the grudge of the spirit before you die. So, creating an actual map might lose too much time.

The controls in this game are quite decent. Sometimes I got a bit disoriented, but that’s because my mediocre navigational skills in games. It doesn’t take long before you get used to the control scheme of this game and learn to use it to your advantage.

The exploration is added with some great sound and music design. The soundtrack sounds like a combination of the Zero Escape series, Ace Attorney and Corpse Party. The music gives of eerie vibes and fits the visual presentation like a glove. I’m actually hunting down the soundtrack of this game to add it to my music library.

Together with the amazing sound effects, the visual and audiovisual presentation of this game is a real treat. I can’t make any complaints about that aspect of the game. Before I keep repeating myself, I think it’s time that we talk about another aspect of the game.

The difficulty of this game is just right. The game is even more difficult when you don’t pay attention during the investigation. In the later chapters, I even took some physical notes to aid myself during the investigation.

Now, if you forgot to save, there is a button that you can use to fast forward the cut scenes. I rarely used this button since I was too invested in the story. I used this button only once when I forgot to save before a LIVE OR DEATH situation and I got a game over… Now, I could have used the “decide again” option to restart from the beginning of the LIVE OR DEATH situation but I lost too much soul power. So, restarting from an earlier point actually benefited me.

Also, there is a message log you can access. A minor complaint is that the button to fast forward is quite hidden in the UI. It’s the L-button.

The replay value of his game isn’t too high. Not counting replays for fun, you can play twice through the game before you have seen it all. Now, this isn’t a big issue but more endings would extend the already short overall game time.

With that said, I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to go to the summary and closing statement of this review.

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

  • The game is too short.
  • The game has a lot of text.
  • A bit more animations would enhance the game a lot.
  • You can’t restart a chapter without a save.

Final thoughts:

This game is not for everybody. If you don’t like a game that has a lot of text, I think that it’s best for you to skip this game. If you enjoy games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Walking Dead, Corpse Party, Trace Memory… I highly recommend this game.

This game is the perfect game to play through on Halloween night or whenever you are in the mood to play more horror focused games. The writing, pacing, audio and visual presentation of this game is very well done. The biggest flaw of this game is that it’s too short. I got so invested and the ride was over before I knew it.

Now, a spiritual successor is going to be released in Japan really soon called NG. I really hope and wish that they are going to bring this game to the west as well. Since the trailer looks amazing and I really would love to play it.

I can totally see why some people would be turned off by this game. But personally I loved my playthrough. When you play this game, don’t use a walkthrough. This game gets even more fun when you aren’t using a walkthrough to guide you in every step of the way.

If you ask me, I think that this game is totally worth it’s price. This developer really convinced me of the quality games they can put out. While this game has flaws, in my eyes they don’t ruin the experience at all. But, I’m really going to hammer this home… This game would be perfect if there were a bit more chapters. A bit more content.

And with that said, I have really said everything I could 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 another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100