Review: Pokémon Sword & Shield (Switch) ~ Want Some Tea And Battling Biscuits?

Pokémon_Sword_and_Shield

Official websiteWikipedia entry

Before I introduce the game, I want to mention that this article is a part of a collaboration with other content creators for the celebration of the Pokémon series, Creator’s Catch. If you want to read more Pokémon content on this 25th anniversary of the original Pokémon games in Japan, there a hub article with more information. In any case, one of my pieces for this collaboration is a review on the latest main series Pokémon games called Pokémon Sword and Shield which released in late 2019 and got two expansion packs in 2020. Now, should you play this game or leave this game at the wayside? Was the “Dexit” controversy right, when not all the Pokémon were going to be included, to boycott the game or shouldn’t they worry? Let’s find out in my review of Pokémon Sword and Shield. I have played the Shield version and most of the DLC for this review. So, what is your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article, let me know in the comment section down below!

Want some tea?

In-Game-Screenshot-2

This game takes place in the Galar region. This region is based on a place that’s extremely close to me. I just have to cross the pond for it. Our above neighbors Great Britain were the inspiration for this game. In terms of story, the structure of the game is extremely similar to the original games. There is less focus on a more unique attempt at gyms like in Pokémon Sun & Moon.

So, you start out in your home town, picking one of three starter Pokémon to set out on a journey to discover the secrets and the evil lurking over the region by going to each and every gym and trying to defeat the Pokémon league.

I’m going to be blunt and honest here. While the story has some fun and quirky characters, it’s way to stripped down of anything that gives some tension to it. There isn’t even an “evil team” in this game. The motivations of the antagonist are weak at best. The biggest flaw is that the story lacked depth.

I finished these games last year and to remind myself what happened in the story, I had to take out my strategy guide and skim through it to get the gist of it. Now, there are a few moments that stood out during the story but these moments were far and few between.

It’s a shame really, since the writing and potential for a better story are in the game. I’m not going to argue that the previous Pokémon games always had a very in-depth story but I’m going to argue that the story was more engaging and gave a better atmosphere to the game. For example, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire tell a story about the climate in terms of the balance of land and water. Pokémon Black and White told a story about the moral of capturing creatures to help in work. Pokémon Sun and Moon told a story about how power can go and make you mad.

I can’t tell you what the moral or message of the Pokémon Sword and Shield games are. In a matter of fact, the actual climax and buildup is so see through that I’m quite sure that even a young child is going to see the twist at the end coming from a mile away. The DLC thankfully takes a step in the right direction, they feel a bit more fleshed out and still have a story to tell instead of something quite generic that the main story is telling.

I think I could ramble on and on about the story, but I think I should focus on review this game and talk about other elements as well, so let’s take a further look into this Pokémon game and let’s see why the fans of the Pokémon franchise are so divided on this game.

Some biscuits, please!

In-Game-Screenshot-18

Even when a game doesn’t have an enjoyable story, the game can still be quite fun. Now, let me first tackle the “Dexit” controversy. There was a group of Pokémon fans who were quite angry when it was announced that not all Pokémon would make it over into the Pokémon Sword and Shield games. I can totally understand from where these people are coming from but I can totally understand the viewpoint of the developers.

It’s a bummer for the fans that they might be unable to catch their favorite Pokémon or carry their Pokémon over from older games. I can totally understand the fear that it’s now possible that Pokémon are going to be locked behind a DLC-paywall. I would totally agree with that fear if the developers implemented a pay per Pokémon scheme, but thankfully enough, they didn’t. Thankfully in the DLC we got 200 Pokémon that were returning to the game for a reasonable price.

Now, what do I personally think about the whole Dexit controversy? Well, to be honest, I don’t mind the fact that not every Pokémon is in the game. And I’m going to explain myself. I think it would have been a huge workload to make close to 900 new models and make them work in the new game. In addition to that, I think it’s a great way to force players to experiment with the new Pokémon. Since why should you catch or try out the new Pokémon if you are able to catch all the ones you know?

Just thinking about the workload that adding 900 Pokémon in one game is going to bring is making my head spin. Not only you need to make sure that there is the right balancing, but you also need to make sure that every Pokémon has it’s use and reason for existing. And let’s not forget the fact that you need to animate them in a large dynamax form as well. Also, just imagine that you had an extremely low chance to catch a certain Pokémon just because there are too many in one route.

It would bloat the game beyond belief. I think that it’s quite possible that when the next generation comes out, we are going to have close to 1000 Pokémon. So, you could start to argue that maybe we shouldn’t have new Pokémon in the next generation but discovering the new Pokémon is just half the fun of a Pokémon game isn’t it.

Anyways, I think it’s time to focus on Pokémon Sword and Shield’s gameplay isn’t it? So, how does this game play? Well, in terms of gameplay, nothing really changed. If you have played Pokémon games in the past, you know what to expect in this game. You train your Pokémon during Pokémon battles in routes and cities and try to defeat 8 gyms that specialize in a type to gain 8 badges to defeat the 5 strongest trainers in the region. Meanwhile you discover the truth behind the legend of that region’s legendary Pokémon(s).

For some veterans, the formula is getting a bit stale. I still enjoyed going through the whole game but I’m a bit disappointed that they are returning to the old school gym design. The trail challenges in the previous Sun and Moon games were such an amazing breath of fresh air. In this game, it’s a strange mixture between the old school gym design an a sort of challenge based design. It’s a step in the right direction to make gyms more fun but something that did surprise me is the fact that there are differences in the gym depending on the version you are playing. Finally, there are more differences between the versions then just the Pokémon you can catch. For example, in Circhester, you fight Gordie who uses rock Pokémon for the 6th badge if you play the Sword version. But in the Shield version, you fight Gordie’s mother Melony and she uses ice Pokémon to challenge you. Sadly enough, this happens for one other gym. I would love to see more in the future. More differences between the versions instead of just the Pokémon you can catch and/or some minor visual/text differences.

There are two unique mechanics in this game. The first is dynamaxing. With this mechanic, you can dynamax your Pokémon in certain criteria. You can use this mechanic during special battles basically. When you dynamax your Pokémon, they grow quite large and they can use extremely strong attacks. I could explain it in detail, but if you want to know more, Bulbapedia has an amazing in-depth article on it. This mechanic really puts an interesting twist on battling but I feel that this doesn’t scream Pokémon to me. It feels like just a spin on Mega Evolution which is basically Dynamax Lite now.

The second unique mechanic are the wild areas. These areas are basically quite open routes where you can do just a little bit more than just battle trainers, battle wild Pokémon and go from one place to the next. If all the routes were more as open and as large to the wild area, then I would applaud the developers. Now, the wild area feels painfully underdeveloped. You can camp and cook in these areas but that is just a small distraction at best. The things you can do while camping feel extremely limited and the cooking mini game is enjoyable but I rarely came back to it.

In the cooking mini game, you have to combine berries and a core ingredient to create all sorts of curry. You can find these ingredients in the wild area. These curries can give a boost to the friendship you have with the Pokémon and other very minor boosts. One of these boots can be to experience gain.

There is a multiplayer aspect to camping and cooking but to be honest, I haven’t used it nor have I experimented with it that much so I’m not going to comment on it. Feel free to talk about it in the comments since I would love to know if it’s fun or not.

Something I feel rather mixed about is the fact you can easily access the boxes anywhere in the world. So, that means you can easily swap your team members on the fly. Thankfully, they don’t fully heal if you switch them in and out of the box during your adventure, since that would have broken the difficulty of this game even more.

This brings me to the point of the difficulty of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Balancing a game just right is something quite tricky to do. I have written a lengthy article about it in 2019. Now, I’m sad to say that this game doesn’t deliver in that department. You have to go out of your way to make the game more challenging. There are various video’s and articles floating around on the internet to give you tips and tricks to make the game more difficult. I’m just going to give some examples: TheGamer and NintendoLife.

The aftertaste

In-Game-Screenshot-27

Now, it might seem that I’m ripping this game apart. Complaining about the story, the unique mechanics and the difficulty of the games. I think I’m going to run ahead of the conclusion of this article but I feel that Pokémon Sword and Shield could have been so much better, miles better in fact. The potential is there in the game.

The game controls amazingly well. It’s the first mainline Pokémon game on a console and it made the transformation quite well. While I got some minor slowdowns during some intense senses and during some battles after selecting a move, they weren’t too bad and the framerate got stable again quite fast.

Something I really liked in this game is the soundtrack and the audio design. Some tracks in this soundtrack like the battle theme of Bede or the battle theme of Marnie are absolute bobs. I also listen to the soundtrack from this game from time to time while at work and while writing articles. I enjoy it just that much. The sound effects add to the atmosphere of the game as well. For example, you feel that moves having the impact it should have to draw you in into the world of this game.

I can totally understand that some people are somewhat disappointed with the visual presentation of this game. Especially since some attacks have a 2D animation while some attacks have a grand 3D animation. To be honest, I didn’t mind it that much. I rather have a generic animation that can be used for every Pokémon that can learn or execute that move instead of the developers having to create a separate animation for each and every Pokémon that can learn the move.

This game is quite colorful and detailed. The visual presentation of a steampunk Great Britain is rather well executed and well done in my opinion. I really like the fact that battles with gym leaders are in a grand stadium, it’s something I always imagined as a kid. Then again, I wonder every gym battle can draw those huge crowds if this region where real. But that’s nitpicking beyond belief.

In terms of visuals, I have been comparing character models of Pokémon from Sun & Moon and Sword & Shield. I have to say that it’s a huge improvement and they look a lot better with better lighting and details in Sword & Shield. Now, you can clearly notice during the game that the developers hit the limits of the 3DS in Sun & Moon, so we should only get better models in the future. It’s also amazing to see that you can see the first Pokémon in your party to follow you in the overworld.

HM moves are a thing of the past in this game. This is something I really feel mixed about. It’s something that could be used to gate players from progressing too fast in the game in more unique ways instead of just blocking the road with various people. It also created more interesting puzzles by sliding blocks or having to dive under water. It’s something I’m going to miss to be quite honest yet I totally understand why it has been done. This way you don’t have to have a Pokémon in your party that’s simply your HM slave and make the world more open to exploration.

A huge positive in this game is the fact that they finally fixed the random battle system. You can finally see all the wild Pokémon in the overworld and avoid them if needed to catch a certain one. In addition to that, you can see which moves are effective against the Pokémon you are battling if you have fought the Pokémon before. If only there was an option to turn it off for more veteran players, that would be awesome. Like an option to disable the always on experience share or turn it in another mode would have been great as well.

This game also has a few online modes like raids and versus battles. But I’m not that big of an online gamer so I’m going to comment on those very much because I haven’t experienced them enough to talk about them. Now, you can do raid battles solo and those are fine but you feel that these are more enjoyable when you do them with friends or strangers online.

Something I’m totally forgetting to talk about is the fact that there is a way you can ease of the griding of your Pokémon! Since you can send them on jobs. In the Pokémon Centers you have a machine where you can play the Pokémon Lottery but more important, send your Pokémon on certain jobs. The better they preform on a better, the more experience and rarer items they will bring back. You can also choose for how long you will have to miss your Pokémon. It’s a sort of free daycare system.

That brings me to how content is somewhat locked in this game. The further you get in the game, the more items unlock. So, even if you were to cheat and go out of bounds towards another city’s Pokémon Center to go to the market, you won’t be able to buy more powerful items. It’s the same with collecting the League cards, which is just an immersion mechanic in the game.

Something new in this game is that there is an autosave feature. So, the days of manually saving are over. Surprisingly enough, there is an option to enable to disable the autosave feature. Now, I have mostly played this game without the autosave feature since I felt that my game ran a smidge better with it off.

The last things I want to talk about is the postgame and the DLC’s. Let’s start with the postgame. There is a minor silly additional story you get after becoming the champion. I’m sorry but I can’t take the characters in this story chapter seriously, I find it a bit ridiculous and silly. Apart from that, you can learn unique moves and do various other things. A nice list has been created by gamewith.net. Personally, I find the post-game content rather enjoyable apart from the silly story of course.

So, the DLC. I honestly have to say that it’s totally worth a purchase. The base game provides around 30 to 40-ish hours of content if you want to play the main story and the extra’s. If you add the two DLC’s on top of that, it’s another 10 to 20 hours on top of that. If you want to fully complete the game, you are looking at an adventure that takes close to 130 hours to complete.

The DLC is also amazing postgame content. It adds unique mechanics and is a step in the right direction when it comes to game difficulty. So, if you enjoyed the base game, I think that the additional 30€ is worth it for both DLC’s. They might be a tad bit on the expensive side but they add more then enough content to justify the price in my opinion.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to talk too in-depth about them, but one DLC is a whole new island to explore with a fun quest to find all the Digletts and to train a Pokémon to fight in one of two towers to choose between which legendary Pokémon you want in addition to the biggest wild area in the game. The other DLC gives a whole new boss rush rouge like mini game for legendary hunting and another new wild area.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for my conclusion. Since this review is getting rather lengthy isn’t it?

Conclusion

The bad:

-Rather underwhelming story.

-The game is too easy.

-Some parts of the game feel underdeveloped and underused.

The good:

+ Amazing visual design.

+ Interesting new spins on the gym battles.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ …

Final thoughts:

After I had beaten the main game and played parts of the DLC, I started a review of this game multiple times and scrapped it each and every time. This game has so many underdeveloped good and fun elements it hurts to see them dragged down by the two biggest downfalls of this game and that’s the weak story and the game being too easy for it’s own good.

I still enjoyed my time with the game but sometimes I felt that these games are becoming a shadow of their former selves. I honestly think that if the story had more depth and there were difficulty options, this game wouldn’t have divided the fanbase so much. Of course, you have the whole Dexit controversy thing, but as I explained before, I don’t find it too big of a disaster.

The game is still a blast to play with an amazing soundtrack, new and fun mechanics like the wild area’s and a lot of accessibility features like seeing the effectiveness of moves. Also, we are finally seeing more differences between both versions that just simply the Pokémon you can catch in the wild.

This generation took a few steps back and a few steps forward and I’m quite curious to see what we are going to get in the future. What games are we going to get in this anniversary year of Pokémon? Since I would love to see the franchise continue and thrive since this game proves that the formula can still be quite a lot of fun if it’s handled well.

So, should you pick up this game? I would recommend it but I would warn players that they shouldn’t expect an expansive story and a lot of challenge expect they create their own challenge. But, it’s still a great and enjoyable Pokémon game where you can sink a lot of hours into.

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

Score: 70/100

Remember, this article is part of a huge collab of content creators to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pokémon in Japan. Want to read more articles and content? Click here to go to the hub article where we all take a look at the main line Pokémon games and various spin-offs.

Game Quicky: WeakWood Throne (Switch) ~ An Adventure For You.

Nintendo.com page

It has been a long time, hasn’t it? I’m sorry about that, but moving houses just takes a lot of your time. On top of that, my internet connection isn’t up and running yet but I’m quite sure that in the upcoming week, that will be fixed. In any case, this offline time give me some time to play some developer request games like WeakWood Throne. I got a publisher code on the Nintendo Switch for Drageus Games who as you know always want my 100% honest opinion on the game. So, let’s talk about WeakWood Throne and if you should give it a shot or if you should ignore this game. Should you take on this adventure or should you leave it up to the influencers and watch a let’s play about it? Or should you avoid this game at all costs? Anyways, I think we should take a look at this game in my game quicky format while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

An Adventure For You

The visual presentation of this game is amazing. This game looks like a high budget flash game where the developers put in a lot of hours to make everything look cartoony and vibrant. Everything looks very consistent and has a lot of charm.

I really like how the UI elements and the menu really tie into the visual presentation of the game. I don’t have any complaints about the UI and the visual presentation apart from the mini-map that could have provided a bit more information.

The animation is also pretty good. The only minor nitpick that I have is that the player character is rather static when you are in a boat. But if that’s the only thing, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. If even small details like when you change weapons in your inventory change the weapon that the player character is holding are present in this game, I can only say praise to this game.

The music in this game is good. It really fits the mood of the game extremely well and it adds the relaxing atmosphere of this game. The fact that are only sound effects playing during the night cycle gives the night a more eerie atmosphere than the day.

This game is a completely open world and it doesn’t hold your hand. So, you have to figure out this game by yourself while you are free to explore. So, when you encounter an area with only strong enemies, well tough luck. Have fun escaping that area.

While this game is somewhat challenging when you die you can restart at the screen you died. So, there isn’t a big penalty for failure. The only thing I wished is that the game didn’t kick you back to the main menu and showed a small “game over” screen.

The quality you get for the money for this game is quite nice. This game is only 5€ on the European eShop and I think that’s a fair price for the game. You’ll get your money’s worth of it without any doubt.

Maybe let’s just watch this adventure

There are some things I’m on the fence about with this game. The first thing is the map system. While there is a mini-map, there is no overall map. It would have been so helpful when you were able to see a full map and maybe even keep notes or something on it. For example, where you got a quest from or where the nearest potion shop is.

Speaking about potions, that’s the only way I found to heal your character. There is no passive healing in this game. This is an issue in my opinion since gold is quite rare and some enemies hit quite hard.

There is something that I found a missed opportunity in terms of the day and night cycle. It would bring the game so much more alive when the NPC’s where in their houses or on different locations when it’s night. Now they have the same routine and it’s a bit immersion-breaking.

The controls are quite responsive and good but there is something the ruins it for me. Backing out of a menu is quite tricky since I always am using the “B” button to go out of a menu. But guess what, to escape the menu you have to use the same button to enter it, which is “X”. The “B” button drops items and sadly enough, you don’t pick them up right away.

On top of that, the most frustrating part of the controls is the skateboard and the dodge roll. These two actions are bound to the same button. But here is the thing. Tapping “ZL” does a roll but holding the “ZL” button starts skateboarding. But I can’t get consistent with this mechanic. Sometimes I start skating always when I go to the left and on another screen, I start rolling and never skating.

The combat is quite tricky to master. While there are a lot of higher-level enemies in the early section of the game which will wreck you when you aren’t careful, as soon as you get used to the combat controls, it’s quite enjoyable. Just keep your eye out on how much damage you are doing to the enemy and how much health it has left. If it’s too strong, just avoid it.

Let’s not go on this adventure

Sadly enough, there are some things that I really didn’t like about this game. First of all, let’s talk about hitboxes. In combat, they are just fine. Rarely I felt that I was unable to hit an enemy or that a hit didn’t connect. But the issue starts with everything else. You can clip with NPC’s quite easily and push them around. But the worst of it all is trying to hit plants or bushes. That hitbox is so precise that if you don’t hit it dead center, the hit doesn’t register.

While the sound effects are decent, I fell that there aren’t enough sound effects. If these were for non-essential mechanics, I wouldn’t mind so much but I really missed a sound effect for unable to use a potion, picking up an item, and having low health. Some of them also didn’t make sense at all. Why do lily pads and walking on wooden bridges have the same sound effect?

The biggest issue in this game is the lack of a tutorial. While there is a tutorial in the first few screens, it doesn’t explain the mechanics like leveling up your character or how to use the quest menu and things like that. It’s a real shame since as soon as I got the hang of the leveling up mechanics and being able to buy stronger weapons, I started to enjoy the game more. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that if you revisit the first screens, the tutorial messages still pop up for some reason.

A minor thing that I really didn’t like is  the screen transitions. My issue with it is that it’s sometimes unclear if you are able to transition to another screen or not.  Sometimes you hit an invisible wall and sometimes you don’t. A few times I wasn’t able to transition to another screen while I was in a boat while I was able to transition on foot.

I think it’s time that I address the elephant in the room. Normally I start my articles by talking about the story or the premise of the game. But in this article, I haven’t done that. That has a very simple reason. The story isn’t that good in my honest opinion. I had to open the store description to get some explanation but it was your generic explanation that almost every RPG has, that there is something wrong in the kingdom and it’s up to you to figure it out and help the people. So, I’m sorry, but if you are looking for deep lore and dialogues, I think this game isn’t for you. Granted, I have only played this game for up to 2 hours and maybe the rest of the game will have a better story but so far it didn’t impress me one bit.

Oh, I’m forgetting about something. The save system. Yes, the save system. While it works, I can’t explain how it works. I think the game saves during every screen transition. But there is no icon indicating that so I can’t tell you for certain.

And the final point I want to make is that this game just forgets to bring the options in the pause menu. So, you have to go to the main menu when you want to change the options of the game. And with that, I think it’s high time to wrap this article up before I forget to save it.

Let’s make a decision

I honestly think that if the game had a better tutorial, better hitbox detection, and a map system… Then this game would have been so much better. This game is well made and has so much potential but it lacks depth on some quite essential levels.

I could forgive the game having a lackluster story if it did give some direction to the game. For example, the story in Breath of the Wild isn’t anything special but it gave the player a goal to work towards and it built the world and the culture of it. On the other hand, I think that I might be expecting too much of a game that cost only 5€.

Can I recommend this game? Well, yes and no. I would recommend this game to people who enjoy playing simple RPG/Adventure games or people who are looking for the next game to play on the bus or in the waiting room. But I’m afraid that the issues of the game hold it back and that it will put a lot of people off.

I enjoyed myself while playing this game for this review but I’m unsure that I’ll finish or revisit the game in the near future. Maybe when I’m on holiday and I’m looking for the next game to finish. Or I might pick this game up again when it gets a major update that fixes (some of) the issues I have mentioned in this article.

Honestly, I think that with the right personality, this game might make an enjoyable let’s play to watch. While the game has it’s flawed to play, it has quite a lot of charm and I think that it’s worth going through it.

So yeah, I’m a bit on the fence about this game. While I have played better games, I also played a lot of worse games. I think that’s the gist of it. I think that this game is a perfect example of a very rough diamond that with some polish can get better.

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much 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 on my blog but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Personal: What’s on my phone

asus zenfone 3 max.jpg Product page

About a year ago, I wanted a new phone. My first smartphone was a Samsung, which was my 2nd and 3rd smartphone as well. I always wanted to try a different brand and since I bought an Asus Zenpad 8S in 2016 for my birthday, I wanted to give the Asus Zenfone a try. I’m quite content with my Asus Zenfone 3 MAX. I have the 5.5-inch version, so it’s quite a big phone in my opinion. So, a while ago, there was a tag challenge in the tech community to tell your audience what you have on your phone. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I still want to do it. So, here we go. Also, I invite other bloggers to do the same thing. What is on your phone? If you write an article about it, feel free to tag me on Twitter or link to this article. Or feel free to leave a comment here as well. 

Mini review

So, before we go to the main event, I first want to give a mini-review on the Asus Zenfone 3 MAX. What are the things that I love and dislike about the phone? I have been using this phone for a year now. If you want to read up on the specs of my phone, you can read it here on gsmarena.com.

There are a few things I dislike about this phone. If you use the screen at max brightness and either WiFi or 4G, the phone’s battery drains quite fast. Lowering the brightness helps quite a lot to save battery. Another thing has to do with the call quality. Sometimes the microphone doesn’t pick up my voice too well and the other end doesn’t hear me, but if I reposition the phone a bit, that fixes the issue. Another thing I dislike is that buttons like home or back aren’t backlit. But, that’s all I really dislike about this phone. While other reviewers would find other things wrong with it, I really like this phone and it fits my needs perfectly.

So, what are the things I really like about this phone? It’s my first phone with a fingerprint reader. This makes life so much easier. More on that later. Another thing I really like is how this phone seems to get frequent updates to the latest version of Android and all the latest security patches. I prefer the ZenUI over TouchWiz any day of the week. The camera on the phone is really good for family pictures in my opinion. But, the biggest factor for this phone is that it’s priced at 250-280€ and you get an amazing phone for that price.

What’s on my phone?

Now, what’s on my phone? Quite a lot actually. I nearly always carry my phone with me since it’s a handy tool when I need to look up something quickly or snap a quick picture of something I need to remind myself of.

Since I’m rarely at my desk at work, I always have my phone with me. So, they can call me whenever there is a problem. Also, I love listing to music while walking and I use my phone as an old school music player. So, my music app is one of my most frequently used apps.

First of all, I won’t talk about every single app that’s on my phone. There are quite a few games I have installed on my phone for when I’m in a waiting room or have some time on the train and the batteries of my 3DS or Switch are out. I’ll only talk about the apps I placed on my home screen since those are the apps I use the most.

Whenever there is an app I use often, I place it on my home screen. If I stop using it frequently, I remove it from my home screen and replace it with something else I use frequently.

Screenshot_20180930-145935.jpg

This is my first home screen. This screen greets me when I unlock my phone. For obvious reasons, I won’t show how I unlock my phone. On the left of my main home screen is the Google Assistant/Google Now. This way I can catch up with the latest news of the subjects I’m interested in. On the right, there is a 2nd home screen with additional apps. More on that later.

At the bottom, I use the classic vanilla apps. From left to right, you have the dialer, my text messages, a button to see all apps, Chrome, and my camera. On top of my home screen is a big clock with the date displayed. Besides that clock, I have the messenger app. I talk quite often to friends over messenger and if I want to share a link, Messenger is the easiest way. Underneath that, you have the Play Store. Each morning, I update all my apps and check the store if there isn’t anything interesting that I could review on my blog.

Then, you have three rows of 4 apps each. The first row is my calendar, my finder app, Discord, and Dropbox. The calendar app is Google Calendar. I use this app often to remind myself of things I need to do. I put more than just my appointments or birthdays in my calendar. Things like: “Article day”, “Write the time for the final project”, “Write a piece for collab” or “Release of thing X” are things that appear in my calendar as well. Appointments have a red color and things I need to do have either blue or yellow. Blue if it’s something I could delay and yellow if it’s urgent or if it can’t be delayed.

The file explorer is the one that comes with Asus’ ZenUI and I love it. It gives me Windows-vibes and it’s really great to use. Whenever I download a file, I can quickly find it with this app. When you open it, you can select to view all images, videos, music, documents… on your phone or just explore the phone. An amazing feature here is that I can set up a wireless method of accessing the files on my phone. When my phone and the device I want to access from being connected to the same network, I can wirelessly access the files on my phone. It creates a link I can visit and I see the same thing as the file explorer app. This app saved me various times.

I use Discord to talk to other bloggers and friends from over the whole world. I’m also part of some servers where game developers look for bloggers to promote their games. If you want to add me on Discord, just shoot me a message over Twitter. But, an app I use really frequently as well. I actually have Dropbox Pro, since I use this as a backup method. I have close to 500GB stored in my Dropbox. Everything from files I need for work to my final project is in there. So, I never worry too much about dying hard drives or losing my files. I also use the Photo Sync feature of Dropbox. This feature saves all the pictures I make with my phone in my Dropbox so I can use them directly on my computer or all the other devices I connected to Dropbox.

In the second row, we find Instagram, WordPress, YouTube, and WhatsApp. I do have an Instagram profile, but don’t frequently use it. I enjoy browsing Instagram to see what my friends are up to. If you can’t guess why I use the WordPress app, well, I use it for checking and fixing things on my blog on the go. So, I’m quite a big fan of YouTube. I love watching tech channels, retro gaming channels, game development channels and various other channels relating to creating things. The final app on that row is Whatsapp. I mostly use that app to keep in contact with my family or my theater group. That’s all I use Whatsapp for.

The final row on my main home screen is the row with the most used apps on my phone. Twitter, since I’m quite active on Twitter. Outlook to check my mails and “Nationaal” is the app I use to check the train schedule to get from and to work. I know that I skipped an app. That’s “Pulsar+“. In one of the firmware updates of my phone, Asus removed the quite excellent ZenUI music app. So, I searched high and low for a great music app on the Play Store. First I used Pi MP3 Player, but I started to run into issues. For some reason, no apps wanted to update on my phone after I installed that app.

Not too long after, I found Pulsar. I liked the app so much, I actually bought the premium version. It includes additional themes and some neat additional features. I can’t recommend this app enough if you enjoy listing to music on your phone. It’s one of the best apps I have used in a while.

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So, on my 2nd home screen are the apps I use less frequently but I want quick access too. Let’s start with the first row. This has the Facebook app, the UEFA soccer app, a weather app, and the Nintendo Switch Online app. The weather app, AccuWeather, is an amazing weather app. It’s quite accurate in my area and I use it to check if I need to take an umbrella on my walks or not. I use the UEFA soccer app since the soccer app of my local sports channel doesn’t have the UEFA Nations League tables built-in. I use the Facebook app since I dislike the website on mobile and I find that it was quicker and easier access to certain features. And finally the Switch online app, I use that app for if I want to voice chat during online Switch play.

The next row has the Steam app, for when I want to check the Steam Store and to have an additional layer of security for my Steam account. Besides that, the Easy Banking app is the app I use to check my finances. Then, you have the Sporza Soccer app. I use this app to follow my local soccer league and to see what the Red Devils, our national soccer team is up to. And Bancontact is used for quick payments, once you set up this app, paying for the doctor goes so quickly.

Oh, before I continue, quick side note. If you are American, I mean football when I say soccer. That said, let’s continue.

The next row has my gallery. When I need to show a picture of somebody. I find the way that the gallery app sorts pictures better than how my finder app sorts them. Besides that, you have the calculator app. Strangely, this is one of the only apps that doesn’t have its name translated in the ZenUI to Dutch. It such say “rekenmachine”. Oh well. It doesn’t bother me that much. Then, you have the Maps app, I use it as a GPS. And finally on that row, you have Imgur, for quickly uploading pictures and since I love this website.

The final row has the Telenet Mobile app. This app is from my ISP and I use this app to check on how much mobile data I have left. Besides that, you got Reddit. I have periods when I get very addicted to Reddit and go on the site a lot and there are moments I rarely visit the site. The final two icons on that row are the Patreon app and the Grumpy Cat game.

I use the Patreon app to check on posts the creators made that I support on Patreon and the Grumpy Cat game is just one of my favorite games on my phone at the moment.

You might notice that I leave one row empty. This row is my temp row. On this row I place apps I just installed and I want to test or if a developer asks me to review them. So yes, that screenshot might be a teaser for an upcoming article. Whenever I tested them or wrote the article, I usually remove them from my home screen.

A few apps that I want to mention that aren’t on my home screen are:

Ringtone Maker – MP3 Cutter – One feature I miss from Samsung is that when you select a song as a ringtone, it searches the best part of the track to start the ringtone. This app solves that and I can even choose from where start my ringtone.

Datasize Explorer Pro – Whenever I’m running low on space on my phone, I use this app to check which apps take up a lot of space and I should remove or clean the cache of.

WiFi Analyzer – If you are a techie or a networking person, this app is a must on Android devices. It helps you to visualize WiFi to help you troubleshoot issues with WiFi.

And all the other apps, outside of games, are apps from local stores here in Belgium or the Netherlands I use to shop or to buy my retro games from. Or your typical apps that almost everybody has like Shazam. And a few apps I don’t think are worth mentioning.

So, that was quite a lot. I’m quite curious to see which phones you guys have and for what you use it and what apps are on your phones. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was something different from what I usually do, but next time I’ll get back into gaming stuff. 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: Kirby – Return To Dreamland (Wii)

Kirbys_return_to_dreamland_boxart.jpgWikipedia entry

It has been quite some time since I looked at a console game. Well, honestly, I do play console games here and there… But mostly, I play games on my handhelds and my PC. In any case, a few days ago, I have finally beaten a Kirby game I have been playing on and off for the past few years. It’s called Kirby’s Return To Dream Land on the Nintendo Wii. Before I begin the review, I first want to address something about the name of this game. In Europe, this game has a different name. It’s called Kirby’s Adventure Wii. This is really annoying to me since the first Kirby game on the Gameboy is called Kirby’s Adventure. Why didn’t we Europeans got the same name as the Americans? Such a shame. In any case, enough stalling. Time to get into the review. 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. Thanks in advance for that. 

The story of Kirby

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In this game, Kirby’s adventure has two big parts. In the first part of the game, Kirby helps a stranded alien to repair his ship. In the second act, Kirby helps to defeat the evil overlord in on the alien’s home planet.

That’s all I’m explain about the story. You rarely find deep story lines in a Kirby game. From all the Kirby games I played, the story is just there. Yet, the twist at the end is nice. While I honestly saw it coming, I didn’t mind. The story is fun enough to play through. In my opinion, the story isn’t that memorable. It doesn’t bother me since the game has a lot more to offer than just the story. I found that the journey was more fun than the actual story.

The writing of the story was great. I’m so glad that they used text boxes in this game since I feel that’s how Kirby stories shine the most.

4 players

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A moment of honesty here, I haven’t played this game with 4 players at once. But I have played this game with two players at once.

Together with my cousin, we have played this game a lot. This game is what I call a “sibling game.” The difficulty of this game is just right. It’s challenging for the younger players but it’s not too hard. Yet; it can be challenging to the older sibling if (s)he let’s his or her guard down.

Speaking about the difficulty, the last boss battle is rather brutal in my opinion. Since it’s mostly in a totally different gameplay style which I’m not an expert in. Then this game can become rather difficult.

In any case, the gameplay of this entry in the Kirby series is what you can expect from any other Kirby game. It’s a fun platformer where you can copy (some of) your enemies powers. The powers in this game are fun to use and every single one of them are useful. Apart from one, the sleeping one. Still as unuseful as ever.

In certain points of the game, you can receive a special powerup. This one transforms Kirby into a powerhouse. The way this powerup is used makes for some fun(ny) situations. But, that’s something I’m going to leave up to you guys and girls to discover.

Also, in each level, you can find some wheels. With those wheels, you can unlock power-up rooms. In these rooms, you can easily get any copy ability you want. On the top of those rooms, you have a doll where you can practice them.

With those wheels, you can also unlock challenges. In these challenges, you have to complete a course using one copy ability in a certain time.  These are fun to play since I love that kind of challenges.

Actually collecting the wheels can be rather challenging since some of them are very well hidden. Also, in some levels, you have a sort of bonus stage where you fight a boss at the end to receive two or more wheels. Those are really difficult and some of them, I wasn’t able to beat in few tries.

Since this is a Kirby game, I have to mention the mini-games. And man, they are a real blast to play. I have lost hours playing those with my niece. Mostly the ninja star throwing one is a real blast to play in my opinion. I had a lot of fun with it.

In any case, I think I prove my point that there is a lot of fun gameplay in this game. But I still have to talk about different aspects of this game so let’s do just that.

Kirby and more Kirby

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So, first of all, the length of this game is perfect. This game has 7,5 worlds. Each world contains around 5 levels, with the final level being a boss.

The 8th world is actually a long level with the final boss of the game. It doesn’t have multiple levels. That’s why I count it as a half world.

In Kirby tradition, each world gets a funny name. And yes, most of them have to do with food.

The presentation of this game is one of the strong points of this game. I really love the art style in this game. It’s very bright and colorful, yet sometimes the game uses a way darker pallet to suit the story.

The animation is really top notch. I have no complaint about them. The world design and the animations are really well crafted. Combined with some amazing level design, this game is almost perfect.

The music in this game is really catchy. I wish I was able to buy the soundtrack somewhere since it’s that good in my opinion. But hey, I didn’t expect anything less from Hall Laboratory.

The controls are very responsive and I have nothing to complain about there. If you doubt about the controls, you can see them in the pause menu.

Up until now, it seems that I haven’t anything bad to say about this game. Well, there is one nitpick. That’s that the first player always leads. When the first player dies, the second player dies as well. That’s the only negative I have with this game.

It’s time to wrap this review up. Here comes the conclusion!

Conclusion

The bad:

-The first player dies -> Everybody dies.

The good:

+ Amazing presentation. (Visuals & animation)

+ Very nice controls.

+ You can play with up to 4 players.

+ While this game can be rather easy, some challenges can be challenging to veteran players.

+ Great level design. And it’s fun to play more than once through some levels.

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you are looking for an amazing Kirby game, look no further. This Kirby game is one of the best in the series. The gameplay returns to its roots (like in the first Kirby games) and it’s a blast to play.

I had so much fun playing this game with my family and friends that I would love to recommend it to every Nintendo fan.

When you like what you saw on the screenshots, give this game a shot! I also heard that this game came out on Wii U Virtual Console, so there is no excuse to not pick up this gem of a game. It’s released in the summer of 2015. So, go ahead and pick up this game. It’s totally worth it.

Score: 100/100

Review: Rise Of The Tomb Raider (PC) ~ Sequel of the Reboot

2000900263Steam store page

I have to talk about this game. It’s the sequel to the game I started this blog with. On the 20th of March 2013, I reviewed Tomb Raider. Now, three years later in 2016, the PC port of the sequel finally arrived. I would have reviewed this game sooner, but due to the patches, my performance was going down the drain. The weakest link in my PC is my graphics card. My CPU, RAM and all other parts of my PC are up to speed with this game, but my graphics card gave me issues. So, after experimenting and trying out different things, I was finally able to play this game with a fluent FPS. Thanks to windowed mode and normal graphic settings. In any case, that’s enough of the behind the scenes stuff! Time to rate this tomb, is it really worth the adventure or is this one better left forgotten? 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 divine source

Riseofthetombraider.jpgAt the center of the story, is the divine source.  Something that Lara wants to find to prove that her father wasn’t crazy. The story uses a lot of cliches this time around. Also, some people can see some plot twists coming from a mile away.

That’s why the story wasn’t all that interesting to me. It was enjoyable but bland. In my opinion, it could have done a lot more with the story. My biggest issue with the story is that some characters didn’t get any development. Thankfully, the writing is very well done which makes up for the middle of the road story.

Something that was truly lacking, in my opinion, was the ending. The ending didn’t convince me why Lara wanted to spend her life raiding tombs. Another thing I didn’t like about the story is that at the start, it jumped around. When I got used to the desert area, I was back in the snowy area. That was a let down for me. Mostly because I feel that I’m unable to go back to check the area out after I finished the chapter. (Just found out, you can fast travel there. Odd thing, when you play the chapter… You have unlimited ammo. When you fast travel there, you don’t have unlimited ammo. That’s a strange issue)

Something that’s even better is the voice acting. The voice acting made some characters come alive! Guys and girls, if you are ever to make a sequel to this game, more of this top notch voice acting, please.

Look at that!

rise-of-the-tomb-raider-pc-scr-image-4173.jpgI have explained in the introduction of this article that my graphics card wasn’t strong enough to run this game at it’s highest settings. But, at the normal settings… This game looks jaw-dropping.

The visuals have improved an awful lot from the previous game and drew me even more into the world the developers created. Yet, I do that to point out that I had some visual glitches with the hair and bow. Here are some screenshots I took of these visual glitches:

2 arrows and the bowSnow forgot to render/how it worksLet’s shoot that climbing axe

But I have to say, that in the latest version of the game, I rarely saw these odd things happening.

The design and the animations of this game are amazing. Yet, this game had issues with performance. Between the release of the PC port in late January and today (mid-May), there have been 6 big patches to the game, mostly all to improve performance. Strangely enough, each patch, my performance wasn’t improving. But, since then, I didn’t have any PC/game crash. Yes, this game crashed so badly that it shut down and rebooted my PC.

Anyways, I’m not going to let this become a long rant about performance. The game is visually stunning and looks great. The animations are amazing as well. Also, the game feels bigger and bigger than the reboot.

There is one thing I didn’t care about in this game and that is the card collecting thing. It bugged out on me several times and I stopped caring. Why do I bring this up now? Since it’s the only negative when it comes to menu design. Such a shame, since we got such a great menu system. I really like how the game reloads your textures while you are playing when you set the visual settings higher and/or lower. It’s fun to see in my opinion. Also, I have to applaud the fact that everything is explained on the side when you tweak your options.

More of the same?

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In this game, most of Lara’s abilities return from the previous game. Apart from some differences, every weapon in this game is the same.

One huge difference is made in this game. And that’s the health system. You can speed up the regen. Well, you can heal yourself. This eliminates the waiting to heal up and makes the combat a bit more intense.

This game has a very similar gameplay to the reboot. Which is great, since I really loved the reboot. But in this game, there are side quests and challenge tombs. While I have beaten the main story, this game has still a lot to offer. The main game is around the 20-hour mark, but in my playthrough, I got 60% completion. So, it’s time to go looking for the things I missed.

Also, in this game, you can learn foreign languages. So, sometimes you can’t decipher a scroll since you aren’t strong enough in ancient Greek. This little mechanic makes the game even more fun.

This game can be pretty difficult from time to time. I remember one area, I had to redo a couple of times. I have to mention, that I didn’t play on the hardest difficulty. If you are looking for a challenge, this game can give you one.

Before I forget, this game has an additional story DLC. I haven’t beaten it yet, but from what I have already played, it’s very interesting and fun to play through.

The controls of this game are excellent. Lara controls fluently and I didn’t make many changes to the default control scheme. I only had minor issues in the menus, but after I got used to them, it didn’t bother me too much.

To close off this review, I have to talk about the music and sound design. In last week’s article, I have already talked and praised the music. The music in this game is amazing. It really sets the mood for the game. Also, the sound design is nice as well. I have nothing to complain.

I played this game with a headset and sometimes I felt like I was really there. The visuals and the sound design are that good in my opinion.

In any case, I think I said everything I wanted to say about this game. Time for the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-Minor visual glitches

-Annoying performance issues with weaker graphic cards.

-Game crashes can cause a PC reboot.

-The story uses a lot of cliches this time around.

-The card game part. WHY?

The good:

+ Amazing visuals.

+ Great music and sound design.

+ The game is a good challenge. Both in combat, puzzle solving and feeding goodies.

+ …

Final thoughts:

This game is so close to being perfect. There are some parts of the game I haven’t reviewed. Like the 2nd game mode. The expeditions. That’s because I haven’t played enough of it to review it. So, that’s a surprise for you if you are interested in this game.

If the story was a bit more fleshed out, I would have given this game full marks. Most of the visual issues I had were fixed in the various patches this game got.

I recommend this game, but check before you buy since this game requires very high PC specs. And when you buy and play this game, be ready for a thrill ride from start to finish!

Score: 95/100